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On the third day of November 2006, a young man stepped out of an office with much enthusiasm. His first assignment though likely very challenging was an opportunity for him to self-evaluate his fit in the organization as well as the relevance of his college-earned skills in a practical perspective. In his honest opinion, he did not conceive such a great future in his career, after all the organization was young but he made up his mind to serve faithfully and diligently. Looking back ten years later, it is still a surprise to him how the firm grew to impact lives of millions of smallholder farmers across the African continent.
Harold Mate, as fate would have it, got to hear about the job opportunity through a radio advert ran by Farm Concern International through Hope FM, a Christian Radio Station in Nairobi Kenya. He desperately scribbled the details on a piece of paper he had torn from an airtime top up card. After graduating from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) with a Bachelor’s Degree in Horticulture in July 2006, tarmacking (job search) as is referred to by fresh graduates was a full time engagement. Ten years later he rose through the ranks all the way up to be a Senior Manager in charge of Markets, Trade and Private Sector Partnerships. Mr. Harold Mate shares his story with Anthony Muhia.
Mr. Harold Mate during his early days at FCI
On the first day I reported to work, I was posted to Wundanyi in Taita Taveta County as a Value Chain Coordinator where we were working on commercializing Traditional African Vegetables (TAVs) among smallholder farmers. I got a chance to hone my motorcycle riding skills as a field staff in Wundanyi. I was redeployed to Kiambu County a year later in the same capacity where I was still working on TAVs in a new Programme that also incorporated sweet potatoes as well. I was later promoted to a Markets and Trade Manager and tasked with the management of a post-harvest (Commercial Village Stores) programmme that was implemented in partnership with USAID-Compete in Mt. Kenya region in Kenya and Jinja region in Eastern Uganda and later transitioned into a horticulture programme under USAID-Kenya Horticulture Competitiveness Programme in Western Kenya. Besides these, there were other numerous assignments I worked on apart from the programme directly under my supervision. I was promoted into senior level management in 2013 and tasked with spearheading the establishment of the Value Chain Research department. This was a great challenge that fully defined my career path at FCI. Currently am working as a Senior Technical Specialist in charge of Markets, Trade and Private Sector Partnerships.
Well, I have been with FCI for ten years now and there was little to admire back when I was a rookie, but I still have nostalgic fond memories of the days I was a field staff. There was no luxury however and each employee had to go an extra mile to meet the deliverables; desk top computers, laptops and vehicles, internet connectivity and the ample office space were not as available as they are today. It is very fulfilling to see your contribution and efforts being part of the overall growth of an institution. I have learnt and perfected my multi-tasking skills here because there are always many tasks on your desk demanding for attention. Farm Concern offers a great learning platform and career advancement for everyone who is ambitious and dedicated. For instance, it is through FCI in collaboration with Kenyatta University I earned a scholarship for my MSc in Agribusiness which was a great milestone for me.
I am a born-again Christian and working for an organization that adheres to Christian values and ethos is a huge deal for me. In addition, seeing the livelihoods of low income farmers improve over and above our expectations is my best way of giving back to the society.
It is important to shape your future while you are still young in terms of career and personal development; don’t be short sighted and don’t waste time on what is not critical. At some point in my early career, I didn’t see clearly my growth and development and that can cloud your judgement on many issues.
Settling down in terms of career and family is important and helps someone to focus on important things, you cannot be young forever and proper use of time and years when you are young is critical. Also, learning the art of being patient and resilient is invaluable, good things don’t just happen overnight. To achieve your goals one needs total devotion and hard work, and accepting criticism and correction from juniors, peers and seniors. However, you must believe and stand for something, don’t always flow with the crowd. It is my belief however most young people lose track due to lack of well-defined priorities. Without priorities one cannot plan his/her future.
I am married to one wife and a father of two beautiful children whom I love spending time with. As for my pastime, I volunteer at my local church and ardent follower of current affairs and emerging issues. On the other hand, I am a motorcycle enthusiast and also tinker with electronic here and there just for fun.
FCI VISION : Commercialized smallholder communities with increased incomes for improved, stabilized & sustainable livelihoods in Africa and beyond