Rwanda’s food systems landscape is brimming with potential, even in the face of limited natural resources. This is largely attributable to the Rwandan Government’s steadfast commitment to escalating the development of its agricultural sector,” asserts Alphonsine Vedasto Mutako. With a deep-seated interest in agricultural development, she keenly observes the vast possibilities and obstacles that pervade Rwanda’s agricultural landscape. Mutako is the immediate former Operations Manager of Rwanda Grain and Cereals Corporation Ltd and took up a new role in July 2023 as the Food Security Coordinator for the Rwanda-Burundi program at Mennonite Central Committee.
She says that substantial investments have been channelled towards infrastructure, the creation of adaptable institutions, inclusive markets, and innovation and extension services. These initiatives collectively construct a favorable atmosphere that stimulates private-sector investments. The sector teems with diverse investment prospects spanning areas such as Dairy, Poultry, Meat Processing, Horticulture, Aquaculture, Mechanization, crop sourcing, blockchain, Agro-tourism, the production of irrigation equipment, and cold chain logistics.
Yet, amid the plethora of opportunities, Rwanda’s agricultural sector is not exempt from hurdles. The sector relies heavily on rainfall, making it susceptible to climate perturbations. An underutilization of water resources for irrigation results in an erratic agricultural output that varies seasonally. Additionally, the sector contends with land scarcity, a dearth of capital, and rampant pests and diseases.
The development of agricultural leaders at all levels can play a significant role in addressing these challenges and maximizing these opportunities. Through effective leadership, challenges can be strategically navigated, innovative solutions can be developed to counter the existing issues, and the opportunities present in the sector can be harnessed for growth. Leaders can drive the adoption of best practices, foster a culture of resilience and sustainability, and encourage stakeholder collaboration to strengthen the sector. Before her involvement in the CALA program, Mutako deeply desired to enhance her leadership skills within the agricultural sector and contribute meaningfully to her country’s food system transformation. This ambition prompted her to participate in the CALA program.
“I was promoted to participate in CALA by my desire to become a good leader in the agriculture sector and contribute to my country’s food system transformation.” Before CALA, she was deeply entrenched in operations management within the public sector, focusing specifically on agricultural development. This background served as a solid foundation on which to build her CALA experience. During her time in the CALA Advanced Leadership Program, Alphonsine was introduced to an enriching journey that amplified her agricultural leadership knowledge and skills.
“My CALA journey was a transformative experience that equipped me with invaluable knowledge and skills. It also provided a unique platform to connect with other African agricultural leaders, offering deeper insights into diverse agricultural landscapes, their specific challenges, and opportunities.” Before the CALA program, Alphonsine identified gaps in her leadership skills, including problem-solving, goal setting, and performance management. The CALA Advanced Leadership Program was a transformative journey, teaching her the power of collaboration and coaching skills in accomplishing goals.
“Before the program, I lacked skills in leadership, including problem-solving soft skills, setting goals for success, and performance management, among others. During the CALA Advanced Leadership Program, I learned the power of collaboration in accomplishing goals and coaching skills.”
The CALA program significantly impacted Alphonsine’s personal and professional development. She acquired a wide range of leadership skills and strategies for managing performance, solving problems, and setting development goals as a leader. “The program impacted my personal and professional development in many ways. I acquired multiple skills in leadership, skills to manage performance, solve problems, and set goals for development in my daily work as a leader.”
One of the key takeaways from her CALA experience was the value of setting SMART goals. She has since integrated this approach into her workplace, establishing a practice of setting SMART goals for each department at the beginning of the year. “I have managed to establish the spirit of working on SMART goals for every department of my workplace and setting them early, ready to be measured in the course of the year.”
Before her involvement with CALA, Alphonsine Veasto Mutako felt unprepared as a leader, lacking the knowledge and foundation needed to solve problems that arose in her work. CALA helped her overcome these challenges by providing her with the necessary tools and strategies to handle issues without confrontation, leading to a win-win situation in different contexts. “Before CALA, I was not really well organized as a leader because I was struggling to handle difficult matters due to lack of knowledge, I even had no basis to solve problems that were arising in my work. Now strategically, I tackle issues without confrontations and end up with a win-win situation in different parts.” The CALA program stood out from other leadership programs by broadening Alphonsine’s African network. She connected with individuals from various countries and gained insights into different practices and food systems strategies from across the continent.
“CALA expanded my network, especially for Africa network. Now I am connected to people from participating countries, I know what is done in different parts of the continent, I am aware of food systems globally and strategies in place from the platforms through CALA and AGRA.” Alphonsine applied the knowledge gained from CALA directly in her organization, using performance management strategies to guide staff and improve their understanding of the evaluation process.
“I applied the performance management knowledge to give orientation on how to enable the staff to perform in our company, opened files for the staff to assist them to understand the evaluation process.” A memorable lesson for her was the transformation agenda of food systems, which sparked her interest in sustainable agriculture and climate change. This influenced her perspective on the role of agriculture in Africa’s economic development.
“Food systems transformation agenda has awakened my mind as a hot topic discussed during CALA program. Agroecology consideration for sustainable agriculture and climate change has triggered my sense of contributing to community awareness on the importance of sustainable agriculture practices to feed the future generation of our continent.” Participating in CALA positively impacted Alphonsine’s career trajectory, with the certificate proving instrumental in securing jobs that required leadership and food security skills. She advises future CALA delegates to complete the courses and respect timelines for long-term benefits.
“I have experienced a significant positive impact through CALA, gaining valuable skills I am applying in my professional endeavors. I encourage all participants to diligently complete CALA courses and the ALP, respecting the timelines provided. By doing so, they will undoubtedly reap long-term benefits and express gratitude towards CALA. I have utilized the CALA certificate to apply for various job opportunities and have successfully secured important roles, particularly those emphasising leadership and food security expertise.”
As a CALA alumnus, she is dedicated to disseminating knowledge and practising what she learned to develop her community. Alphonsine gained crucial skills such as problem-solving, enabling people to perform, performance management, and setting goals for success, which were not acquired in her previous professional and educational experiences. “I see my role as CALA alumni contributing to the program’s continued success through disseminating the knowledge and practising what we learned to develop our communities is crucial to show the program’s positive impact.”
“Collaboration and coaching skills learned is another essential part of CALA best thing,” Alphonsine says. She deeply valued and cherished the collaboration and coaching skills she acquired in the CALA program, recognizing them as fundamental pillars that shaped her transformative journey. Through the program’s emphasis on collaboration, she learned the art of effective teamwork, understanding the power of synergy and collective effort in achieving meaningful outcomes.
Alphonsine Veasto Mutako is an accomplished professional with extensive public-sector operations management experience, particularly in the agricultural sector. Currently, she serves as the Food Security Coordinator for the Rwanda-Burundi program at Mennonite Central Committee, a role she assumed on July 5th, 2023.
Alphonsine’s academic background is robust and directly applicable to her line of work. She holds a BSc in Agricultural Science and a Bachelor’s degree in Forestry and Nature Conservation, both awarded in 2011 by the Higher Institute of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry (ISAE), now known as the University of Rwanda. Further expanding her knowledge in the field, she obtained a master’s degree in Agricultural Economics and Rural Development from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.
Before joining the Mennonite Central Committee, Alphonsine worked as the Operations Manager at the Rwanda Grain and Cereals Corporation Ltd, where her keen understanding of supply chain management, logistics, and quality control played a pivotal role in the smooth functioning of the organization. Her commitment to process optimization, streamlining operations, and maintaining quality and safety standards was invaluable.
Passionate about sustainable development in Rwanda’s agricultural sector, Alphonsine actively participates in initiatives to promote food security and improve rural livelihoods. Now in her role at the Mennonite Central Committee, she brings this dedication and expertise to ensure the food security of the Rwanda-Burundi region.
Her deep understanding of public sector dynamics, fostered by close collaboration with government agencies and regulatory bodies, is an asset in her current role. Alphonsine’s knack for effective communication allows her to engage various stakeholders, strategize solutions for industry challenges, and create a conducive business environment.
In addition to her professional commitments, Alphonsine actively participates in forums and discussions about agricultural development and public sector management. Her wealth of knowledge and experience in the field, coupled with a dedication to continuous learning and adaptation to industry trends and innovations, make her a valuable contributor in the drive towards sustainable agricultural development.