Master of Sustainable Development Practice (MDP) Alumnus, 2012
I am currently the Manager of the Agriculture & Livelihoods portfolio for Catholic Relief Services in Guatemala and Mexico, based in Guatemala City. I oversee projects related to value chains such as coffee, food security, and natural resource management in the Dry Corridor and Western Highlands of Guatemala as well as in Oaxaca in Mexico. Our current agriculture portfolio reaches over 10,000 farming families in the two countries.
Program design and strategic direction are two parts of my job which I particularly enjoy. I especially appreciate the opportunities CRS has to pilot, creating exciting innovations and involving farming families who have been collaborating with CRS for several years in the design process. In our coffee work, we have been supporting families for multiple years to recover from the impacts of coffee leaf rust. Several farmers involved in this project have worked with CRS to expand the program beyond agronomic practices and climate change adaptation into the realm of community-based models for the co-financing of field activities as well as market-oriented activities such as coffee cupping and supply chain traceability.
The MDP program and the Center for Latin American Studies allowed me to combine a course load which fostered the development of higher-level skills such as strategic design and the overall context and macro trends of international development, while also providing the opportunity to develop more practical skills such as development administration (budgeting!) and monitoring and evaluation.
In my opinion, three key factors allow a development practitioner to be effective: 1) language skills and the accompanying relationships you develop with those skills; 2) a strong technical (agriculture, health, monitoring, and evaluation etc.) and regional (Latin America, Africa) knowledge base and; 3) a dynamic and collaborative (cross-discipline) approach to problem-solving. UF and the Center for Latin American Studies allow students to work on all three of those areas through a combination of field work, courses, and a rich diversity of minds.