Horizon-broadening experiences


For many years, the Vereniging Agrarische Bedrijfsadviseurs (Association of Agricultural Business Advisers) has enjoyed a successful partnership with Agriterra. To this end, we regularly advertise challenging Agripool vacancies to their members for consultancy assignments and providing training sessions. For such projects, experts travel to different countries. Among others, this is done to assess cooperatives - a task that not only brings satisfaction, but also broadens your horizons. Jan van Beekhuizen and Jan Kamphof, VAB members who recently experienced it for themselves, highly recommend it.

Independent consultant and lecturer at Aeres Hogeschool Dronten Jan van Beekhuizen recently went to Kenya to explore the possibility of Agriterra working together with a local dairy cooperative. It’s not the first time: previously, he has carried out such assignments in, among others, Uganda and Zambia. During the trips, he examines the cooperative's strengths and weaknesses and whether they are open to change. “I enjoy it immensely. The people are pleasant to work with and you learn to see the differences in cultures”, he says. Jan Kamphof, regional director EMEA at Hamlet Protein, has also taken up the task of Agripool expert before. Recently, he was in Ethiopia to assess whether a partnership with a local federation of cooperatives would be a possibility. “In a week, you need to form a picture about where Agriterra can contribute,” he says. He ended his visit with a positive outcome. The assignment of Jan van Beekhuizen in Kenya, too, concluded with good results.

The question of where Agriterra could contribute is central to these Agripool assignments. Visiting the Kenyan cooperative, for instance, Jan van Beekhuizen saw room for improvement in terms of financial dependence on NGOs. Explaining that to the cooperative is, however, not something easily done. “In the Netherlands we are used to speak up about issues. There, you have to frame something like that well — it takes agility to get a message across.” Jan Kamphof agrees. “Knowledge is one thing, but it's also about working with a different culture. If you understand why something is done in a certain way, you can also find pain points and make progress step by step.” An example of that required sensitivity is the conversation he had in Ethiopia about faith: “People have learned to accept the situation as it is. The flip side of that is that there is less drive to improve things.” It’s a challenge in the positive sense: how can you do your bit in a different environment from what you are used to back home?

According to both, the job of Agripooler also requires some flexibility. Jan Kamphof, for example, says that during his trip meetings sometimes started much later than planned. Jan van Beekhuizen is familiar with that issue, too. “You have to be adventurous and be able to accept that things go differently than expected. For people who dread taking such a trip, it might be just the right thing to do,” he says with a smile on his face. After all, in exchange for the challenges, Agripool experts get a lot in return. "It makes your world view more nuanced. If we experience more things globally, we can improve discussions about issues we face in the Netherlands." Jan Kamphof adds: “If you are fascinated by other cultures, you get tons out of it. All I can say is: I enjoy it immensely.”

Jan Kamphof giving a presentation

Jan van Beekhuizen in the field

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