Once they graduated, IFA students are qualified for positions as a supply chain specialist, buyer, exporter, consultant or manager, with specific knowledge about sustainable trade and business.
Prospective employers are companies and organisations in the global agrifood business. Some of the students carried out their final-year project abroad.
Three of the projects where financed by the Rabobank Foundation. In the context of this cooperation, Cas van Loon and Rik Verhoeven went to Vietnam to carry out a project on cashew cultivation. Other students left for Indonesia, to focus on prawn cultivation, and to Kenya, to carry out an assignment about financial services. Local companies were also involved with the assignments. Cas and Rik carried out their assignment in Vietnam, in collaboration with the Dutch consultancy firm, Kenlog, an important HAS partner on one of our international horticulture projects in Vietnam.
Kenlog and the Vietnamese company My Le want to set-up a training centre in Vietnam for cashew farmers.
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In April, we went to Vietnam to carry out our supply chain analysis in situ. The culture there is very different to Dutch culture. In the end, we still managed to speak to 6 farmers, 2 traders, 1 breeder, 2 cooperatives and the national Vietnamese Cashew Association. These discussions enabled us to identify a few critical factors. The management of My Le said they had the same problem.
So we were able to all discuss possible solutions and convert those critical factors into potential success factors.
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But what is a critical factor? One example is the presence of intermediaries.
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They have lots of power and create major fluctuations in the price. Another example is that there is almost no data available. This makes it impossible to optimise cultivation methods.
A training centre could help set some of these solutions in motion. Toon is proud of the students, because not only were they not discouraged by cultural differences and unsuspected setbacks in their research project, they also helped My Le with crucial improvements which will be able to optimise the supply chain and help the company grow. They also did some research for the Rabobank Foundation regarding business succession.
Because other than mapping the current supply chain, it is also important to know who the farmers of the future are. The team is currently piloting the platform with the East Africa Exchange, the largest regional commodity exchange in East Africa, which aims to link smallholder farmers to agricultural and financial markets. This year, there were nearly 30 submissions for the competition, which started last November.
In January, judges selected the seven finalist teams, which were paired with mentors that helped develop business plans and pitches. Teams are not limited to MIT affiliates.
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