Our International Board

Stephanie Daniels
Stephanie Daniels
Senior Program Director for Agriculture & Development at the Sustainable Food Lab - President of the Board of Directors

I’ve gotten to know VECO as a member of the Food Lab network, through the strategic learning assessments for both VECO Latin America and VECO Andes where I had the pleasure to meet both regional staff and visit some of the incredible farmer associations that VECO Andino and VECO Mesoamérica are supporting.

I’ve found VECO to be one of the few organisations that reflect on their work and are willing to learn. VECO shares the same values regarding commitment to being a learning organization as the Sustainable Food Lab. What I love about the organisation is that it’s a mix between practical work on the field and a robust theoretical foundation. I was also struck by VECO's history: I haven't seen many successful mergers between 3 different civil society organisations and this is a testament to their adaptability.

My background is in supply chain management and ethical purchasing, managing cocoa purchasing from 1995-2002 at US specialty chocolate company and then running my own consulting company to help companies develop ethical sourcing programs.. I’ve always worked at the intersection between trade & development, and continue this work in our program on Agriculture & Development at the Food Lab.

In my role on the new VECO international board I will bring insights from this US perspective on business, where the dialogue is different to Europe on concepts such as corporate social responsibility and working with NGOs.

I look forward to being involved in the debates on the future of smallholder farming, on defining the global strategies for the future, and how VECO transitions to an effective and dynamic network organization.

Amon Mattee
Amon Mattee
Amon Mattee, Associate Professor at Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania

I come from a rural family near Moshi town. My parents were smallholder farmers, so from my own experience I know what is needed to help farmers out of poverty.

For over 30 years I've spent my time working with and for farmers. Now I work for the Sokoine University of Agriculture. My department collaborated a lot with VECO in Morogoro, organising farmers in groups, linking them to markets. Even one of my staff joined VECO.

I really appreciate the work that VECO is doing. You have the right approach: for me the key is organising smallholder farmers in groups, so that together they can hit the market as a strong organisation. Economic empowerment is the key, and it's not only about increasing knowledge and teaching farmers how to produce more food. That is not sustainable. It's about linking strong farmer organisations with the market.

I see my role on the board as having a focus on strategy development, to bring in the perspective of smallholder farmers in developing countries/Africa. Very much looking forward to it!

Koen Dolphen
Koen Dolphen
Head of Operations Securities Handling, BNP Paribas Fortis, Belgium

VECO and I go way back. As a teenager and boy scout I was already involved in fundraising in Belgium. Every year in January I took to the streets, selling gadgets to raise money for VECO's activities, often even on my birthday. Many years later, I started working for FADO in Indonesia, a small NGO which later merged with VECO. On my return to Belgium I became a member of the General Assembly and of its Finance Committee, and since last year, I'm a member of the Belgian Board of Directors.

It was this board that initiated the transition towards a network organisation, and my role in the new board is to be the link between the old and the new board. I know how VECO works in the field, I'm familiar with our core values and approaches, and I know and fully support the new direction it wants to take. I also bring to the international board my financial expertise, as I currently work in the banking industry, as well as my experience in change management and general management.

What kept me involved with VECO for so long is the organisation’s constant willingness to improve, to do better. VECO is known and appreciated for its self-reflection and innovation. So after all these years you can still find me at the door of a Belgian supermarket in January, raising funds for VECO!

Lettemieke Mulder
Lettemieke Mulder
Director Sustainability & Product Policy at EuroCommerce

I came into contact with VECO as a member of the board of Kauri (The Shift), the first Belgian network in which private companies, NGOs and other civil society actors discussed sustainability issues. At that time I worked for Unilever as a CSR Manager. Working at the crossroads between environmental aspects, international relations and business has always been my main interest.

VECO has occasionally invited me to their strategic discussions on how to work with private companies and I've always liked the open spirit during those meetings. This is really one of the strengths of the organisation: to create settings in which all people around the table feel safe to express their vision, without being pinned down. Then a couple of years ago, I joined the General Assembly of VECO.

As a multi-lingual Dutch person I have lived, worked and studied in the UK, the US, Germany and The Netherlands, but currently live in Brussels. So I feel well connected with the many stakeholders of VECO in Belgium. Last year, I also braved the mountains of Nicaragua on my bike to raise funds for VECO's activities.

So I did not hesitate when I was asked to join the new International Board. Together with Koen Dolphen, I see myself as the link between the 'old' and the 'new' VECO and I understand VECO's way of working and thinking. I look forward to sharing my experience working with multi-stakeholder processes and communications.

Ronnie Natawidjaja
Ronnie Natawidjaja
Center for Sustainable Food Studies, Universitas Padjadjaran, Indonesia

I'm really happy to get the opportunity to join the International Board of VECO. For me this is a new experience since I am normally more involved in scientific committees and networking.

I feel connected with VECO because it is one of the few organisations I know that really put farmers at the centre of their work and believing that farmers could compete in the globalised market. I have personally experienced some good examples of VECO’s work programme in Indonesia.

I have recently been asked by my university to build a vocational training centre to connect theory and the practice of agriculture value chain development. Through my connection with VECO I can make this centre even more relevant, focusing on promoting applied research that directly benefits smallholder farmers.

What I can offer to VECO is my wide experience in the rice and food sectors in Southeast Asia and my network with center of excellence in training, research, and education.

Sharon Hesp
Sharon Hesp
Program Director, Organic Cotton Accelerator/Consultant at NewForesight, The Netherlands

I visited several regions where VECO works as an evaluator for NewForesight in 2014. All over the world I found very dedicated staff. For me this is proof that the importance given to VECO’s people is not merely words but is in fact one of the core values of the organisation. I also like the continuing importance that is given to innovation.

I've been working within international cooperation for more that 10 years, so I bring with me vast experience in sustainable agriculture, value chain development (especially in the coffee and cacao sector), market access and multi-stakeholder processes (especially with the involvement of the private sector).

Furthermore I have been a member of the Board of another organisation that attempted to make the same shift as VECO is doing now. I really want to apply the lessons learned from this experience in order to make VECO's transition a success.

Alain Sy Traoré
Alain Sy Traoré
Head of Division AgriMarket and Value Chains at ECOWAS

Alain joined the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission in 2008 as Head of Division AgriMarket and Value Chains. He is, since 2014, the Director of Agriculture & Rural Development at the ECOWAS Commission. Across west Africa countries, Alain has nearly achieved 19 years of experience as Project Manager and Agribusiness Advisor and Development in West Africa.

Mark Lundy
Mark Lundy
‎Senior Researcher at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Colombia

I have always enjoyed working with VECO, from the first time a few years ago while reviewing regional programmes in the Andes and Latin America. The first email that I received said: "here are all the documents that you need, and here is a list of all the things that have gone wrong. Start there!". I found that very refreshing; all the other institutes and NGOs that I usually work with are often only focused on showing all the good things that are happening.

One of the things that I very much respect and value about VECO, is the fact that you are willing to try new things. There seems to be a greater appetite or willingness to fail, with a strong genuine desire to learn about what is going on. The other element that I like is VECO's capacity to bridge practice from the field to influence policies. I think this remains a big challenge, not only for VECO, but for most organisations that try to do this. Furthermore VECO’s people and underlying values very much appeal to me: the notion of interdependence and dialogue, and the idea of working with various different kinds of partners that may not seem obvious from the outside.

That is what has moved me to support VECO's work as part of its international board of directors. I want to provide support in the areas in which I am knowledgeable and in which I have useful skills, strengthening VECO's capacity as it transitions towards a network organisation.

Winanda Nuyttens
Winanda Nuyttens
HR Transformation manager, Korn Ferry Hay Group, Belgium

I am Winanda, meaning "the brave one", and that's something that I try to put in practice as much as possible in my daily life. I have worked for several private companies in Belgium as a human resources consultant. Increasing profit was the sole focus and I came to the point when I asked myself “Is this all there is?”. I proceeded to start looking for other challenges, both professionally and privately.

I became engaged in basketball as a team energiser and my working life shifted towards a focus on sustainability. I began looking for an organisation where I could make myself useful, sharing my knowledge and skills. That's how I came across VECO. I already knew the VECO brand very well, through the annual fundraising campaign which is held every year in January. Gradually I learned what was behind the image. I was especially attracted by the transition the organisation is going through and I am very happy to offer my time and knowledge to VECO during this exciting time.