As a way to promote the incredible work our Host Organizations are doing and to spread the word of the substantial impact Atlas Corps Fellows has on their teams. Today, we are sharing a story of International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) and their experience with an Atlas Corps Fellow Constance (Class 41, Malawi).

Host Organization: IFDC

IFDC is a nonprofit that is dedicated to building sustainable agricultural practices and alleviating world hunger by working from the ground up through innovative science-based research and strategic partnerships. 

Fellow Supervisor: Douglas Kerr

At Atlas Corps, we have a tradition of stating our “Five Facts” when introducing ourselves to new people. What are your five facts?

Name: Douglas Kerr

Hometown: London

Role at Organization: Vice President, Business Development

Social Issue/Interest Area: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

Fun fact: Made a cameo appearance in an episode of Real Housewives of Potomac

Why did you decide to host an Atlas Corps Fellow?

I have always had tremendous admiration for programs like the Atlas Corps Fellowship, and for similar citizen-to-citizen exchange and development programming like USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer program, as well as the more well-known programs like the Fulbright and Muskie Fellowships. Despite all the current buzz about localization in international development, Atlas Corps has been going local (aka “walking the walk”) for 15 years now. It would be great to hear more from earlier cohorts of Fellows to learn more about how Atlas Corps shaped their life journeys.

Why did you choose Constance as your Atlas Corps Fellow?

I think that Constance and IFDC chose each other because there’s a natural fit in our backgrounds and areas of interest. While with the Africa Agribusiness Academy (AAA) in Malawi, Constance developed and maintained relationships with local partner organizations which led to joint programs that impacted the development of AAA members. Now with IFDC, Constance is building upon those experiences by supporting our business development efforts to amplify IFDC’s impact more broadly.

How has Constance contributed to your team? How has her presence had an impact on your team’s dynamic?

Constance fits in very easily with both our small team based here in Washington, D.C. and our larger group of IFDC colleagues at the Headquarters in Alabama, as well as in the field in Sub-Saharan Africa. She has an easygoing, supportive, and naturally collaborative nature. I believe that even in the context of this ongoing pandemic, Constance is making the most of the opportunities that the Atlas Corps Fellowship has to offer her.

How will your Fellow’s contributions and insights impact your organization in the long run?

IFDC is in the middle of a transformation where it is going from a more traditional and somewhat stove-piped organization to a much more flexible and nimble structure that features matrixed organization and management. Constance has stepped up in her role with IFDC by assuming the work that would have otherwise fallen to our local East and Southern Africa teams. Her role, which is embedded in our Washington, D.C. based Business Development team (which functions as the central “nerve center” of our BD operations), aligns perfectly with our own internal transformation and modernization.

What has Constance taught you? Have you learned anything special about her culture?

Constance is showing me how, no matter what stage we are at in our lives and careers, we can always strive to grow, evolve, learn and adapt new skills, and embrace new ways of working. I admire Constance’s internal drive: her determination to both make the most of the opportunities that she’s fortunate to come across in life, and to amplify the impact of her work once she returns to her home in Lilongwe.

Is there anything else you would like to add about your experience as an Atlas Corps Host Organization?

Again, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to interact with the Atlas Corps team. I am amazed at how seemingly effortlessly they have managed to surmount the challenges posed by the pandemic and continue to manage the program. I have especially enjoyed a couple of interactions with other Hosts.

IFDC joined Atlas Corps’ 15th anniversary virtual celebration on November 18. I really appreciated hearing from members of the organization’s first cohorts and would like to see an Atlas Corps Alumni feature that is shared with hosts, and more publicly, in the future.  Atlas Corps also might consider expanding opportunities for networking with other hosts and other Fellows to learn about each other’s experiences, and to share best practices. 

Fellow: Constance (Class 41, Malawi)

At Atlas Corps, we have a tradition of stating our “Five Facts” when introducing ourselves to new people. What are your five facts?

Name: Constance Munyenyembe

Hometown: Chitipa, Malawi

Role at Organization: Business Development Fellow

Social Issue/Interest Area: Agribusiness, Youth Development

Fun fact: When I was young, I tried all things sports, my favorite being cross-country. As short as I am, I even tried basketball and made it onto the girl’s team.

What is your role at your Host Organization?

At IFDC I provide business development support to the East and Southern Africa Division. I prepare materials to position IFDC in the market, research upcoming donor funded projects, engage with partners, and contribute to project designs.

How is your experience with your Host Organization impacting your perspective? 

There is no better time to serve at IFDC than now. This organization has given me a better understanding on agriculture. I have learned that in order to reach food sustainability, we should work from the ground up, starting with improving nutrient efficiency in the soil. IFDC addresses this by bringing together innovative research, market expertise, and strategic public and private partners that benefit farmers, entrepreneurs and the environment. I am happy to be part of all of this.

As for my colleagues, they are all energetic, friendly, and approachable. I appreciate learning about American culture and work ethics through them.

How has your experience with your supervisor impacted your perspective? 

I am happy that Doug is my supervisor and his reviews on my work are generally positive. During the interviews prior to this Fellowship, he had already wanted me on his team because he believes in my previous work. I have learned a lot from him about business development and how one must always stay alert with news, projects, and the general market.

My first assignment with IFDC was working with their country representative in Mozambique on a USAID RFI. Though at the time, I was still learning and familiarizing myself with the important information that was needed to write this project, it was a success because Doug believed in me and guided me. This helped me better develop my skills in writing these documents and capability statements.

How will you build upon the skills and knowledge gained during your Fellowship once you return to your home country?

The Fellowship has allowed me to work in an international organization, build more international networks, and develop skills in partnership building, proposal writing and working with donor organizations such as USAID. I first fell in love with agribusiness while working at Africa Agribusiness Academy in Malawi, where I got to be in the field engaging with and helping various farmers apply business components to their agricultural produce. I plan to apply the skills and networks that I gained in this Fellowship to continue my work with young farmers and agripreneurs in Malawi and beyond.

More about Atlas Corps

Atlas Corps partners with mission-driven organizations (nonprofit, private, and government) to facilitate a professional exchange program for the world’s best emerging social change leaders to live and serve in the United States for a 12-month Fellowship. The Atlas Corps network currently includes more than 1,100 professionals from 110 countries who have served at 300 organizations.

Interested in becoming a Host Organization for an Atlas Corps Fellow? Fill out Host Interest Form.

Photos from IFDC’s archive