In 2016 I spent five months working with TechnoServe on an agricultural distribution project in Zimbabwe and one extra month traveling around the country. This was a life changing experience which allowed me to acquire professional development, make great friendships, and visit several of the most beautiful natural places I've ever seen.
Overall it was a fulfilling experience that has encouraged me to continue discovering Africa. Let me share with you how was the application process, my experience in the project, how is it to live in Zimbabwe, the places you must visit traveling through Zimbabwe and how to participate in other opportunities around the world.
1. Characteristics of TechnoServe projects
a. Purpose: the mission of TechnoServe is to work with enterprising men and women in the developing world to build competitive farms, businesses, and industries.
b. Duration: most TechnoServe projects require at least a three-month commitment on the ground. In the summer months, they also have 10-week positions available for MBA and graduate students.
c. Location: TechnoServe has projects all around the world. In the application, you will see a section called “Project Matching.” Here you can indicate specific preferences, if any, for the geographic region or country where you would like to volunteer as a Fellow.
d. Skills and capabilities: Fellows have a minimum of two years of full-time work experience and have proven business skills applicable to the programs. Successful candidates typically have experience working at management consulting companies, investment firms, and industry leaders.
2. TechnoServe application process
It's very easy to participate, just follow these steps:
a. Check the website: in TechnoServe website you'll find all the information regarding it's mission and main activities around the world.
b. Apply to the Fellows Program: in the Fellows Program Page you'll find the application process as well as a more detailed idea of the skills you should have to apply and the kind of projects in which you'll be able to participate.
c. Fill in a form and send your CV: there are projects all around the world in different areas so filling the questionary will help TehnoServe team place you in the perfect project that matches your skills and interests.
d. Wait for an opportunity to emerge: try to apply 1 to 4 months in advance. Projects emerge every day and if the Fellows Program staff identifies a project that aligns with your skills, interests and availability, a member of the team will email you to share an overview of the project.
e. Interview: you would interview one or more times with the corresponding program team manager or country director. The program team, in partnership with the Fellows Program staff, will determine if an offer is appropriate.
3. My experience
Before participating in this project, I worked approximately two years in Management Consulting and had my own business venture with UBER (taxi smartphone App), so I was used solve tough business problems usually with a team of three to five people.
This experience was enriching because I was able to have full ownership of the project, and plan its development with the support and advice of my supervisor and colleagues.
The aim of the project was to make an assessment of the agricultural distribution of Small Holder Farmers and Agro Dealers identifying opportunities to improve their profitability, productivity and competitiveness.
As there was not a lot of statistical information to work with I had interviews with several company leaders and oversaw a group of enumerators that conducted a survey between farmers, thus getting valuable information that I analyzed to develop projects to come.
In the picture below we are in Mutasa conducting the survey.
The project was held mainly in three districts: Mutare, Mutasa and Makoni; which allowed me to travel around Manicaland Province and discover beautiful areas of Zimbabwe.
Also, all the weekends I returned to the capital (Harare). Another benefit of this project is that I received accommodation and a per diem to cover all my expenses.
- Harare: is the capital and most populous city of Zimbabwe. From approximately 14 Million people in Zimbabwe, Harare has approximately 3 Million.
- Mutare: has a population of approximately 200 Thousand people and is the capital of Manicaland Province. It's located 265 km away from Harare.
- Makoni: has a population of approximately 150 Thousand people, its main town is Rusape and is located around 180 km away from Harare.
- Mutasa: has a population of approximately 170 Thousand people, and is located around 30 km away from Mutare.
4. Living in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a country where you'll very easily adapt:
- Language: English, Shona, and Ndebele are the most commonly used languages, but everyone speaks English so you won't have trouble communicating.
- Currency: the United States Dollar.
- Food: the typical meal is called Sadza (a thick paste/porridge made with cornmeal, and usually served with vegetables and meat or chicken) and you can also find fast food chains and restaurants.
- Transport: in the main cities there's no metro but you can use taxis and minivans. And you can travel around the country by bus or airplane.
The lovely people of Zimbabwe are so warm and welcoming. You can see in the following video one of my last days while finishing the project in Mutasa.
5. Traveling through Zimbabwe
After the project ended, I stayed one extra month traveling in Zimbabwe and I got to see amazing places. You can read more about it in the post The 10 places you muy definitely visit in Zimbabwe.