Originally published on April 13, 2018.
Here's a Q&A with Land O'Lakes, Inc. Supply Chain & Operations Talent Accleration Program (TAP) associate Maceo Caudle, has been supporting Land O'Lakes International Development's work in Malawi:
With the support from the United States Department of Agriculture, Land O'Lakes International Development (ID) is implementing the Food for Progress MSIKA project. MSIKA, meaning Malawi Strengthening Inclusive Markets for Agriculture, is a development project supporting farmers, processors and markets in mango, citrus, guava, potato, tomato, onion and chili.
How are you supporting the project?
I am currently working with fruit and vegetable processors to improve post-harvest handling, storage and overall capacity. I help provide trainings and technical support, and I contribute to facilitating of linkages and support for access to finance to improve infrastructure of on-farm-production. This will enable improved market and trade infrastructure and increase efficiency of post-production processes.
Specifically, I'm working with three processors: a women's cooperative that produces tomato jam, a baobab juice and oil processor and a fresh juice and smoothie bar. Google baobab trees. They are awesome.
What do you like about Malawi?
Malawi is known for being "The Warm Heart of Africa." The people are kind and welcoming, and the country has a rich culture and gorgeous scenery. My Land O'Lakes ID colleagues fit this description. The team is very passionate about their work because the results of the project have a direct impact on their own communities.
What's been your favorite food in Malawi?
I'm not sure if anyone has ever heard of a "South African Braai" but the concept and taste of the food reminds me of being back home. I was born and raised in Triana, Alabama. We are all about good people and good vibes, with great food and cold drinks to cool you down from the hot temps!
What are a couple of highlights of your experience so far?
I really enjoy stopping at fresh markets along the interstate on market days. Imagine walking through a crowd and everyone trying to get your autograph, you barely have enough room to breathe – it's thrilling. Understanding market access, demand, product quality and competitor prices are critical for these farmers to succeed, and that's where MSIKA comes in.
A non-work highlight is my morning runs. Being able to run through different communities makes me appreciate both the things that I sometimes take for granted back in the U.S. and the beautiful simplicity of how some people live here. I use that time to reflect on how I can improve my own life.
What stereotypes or misconceptions did you have before arriving?
Often, cultural differences are misunderstood due to a lack of awareness. Although I didn't arrive in Malawi with strong prejudgments, our past experiences create our own mental realities. I had to reprogram my way of thinking to fully embrace the new experience.