It was a short visit but by no means an unproductive one: from 18–22 May 2009, a Corporate Services team from CIMMYT-El Batán visited the center’s Nairobi and Harare regional offices. The team consisted of Luis De Anda, finance manager; Marisa de la O, human resources (HR) manager; Carlos López, information and communication technology (ICT) manager; and Scott Ferguson, deputy director general for Corporate Services.
“By having direct interactions with our CIMMYT colleagues in Africa, we have a better idea of the issues they face with respect to Corporate Services,” said López. “We also gained a greater understanding of their local circumstances and challenges.”
Working as a team, the group was able to address workplace issues in their corresponding areas, and each also met with their local counterparts. López expressed the need for better communication across CIMMYT offices and for more internet tools and systems. While in Harare he worked with staff to ameliorate the office’s internet access which is via satellite, and said he was grateful for the opportunity to see CIMMYT’s mission firsthand.
In Zimbabwe, the team visited the new dam that supplies water to CIMMYT’s Muzarabani station –the old dam was destroyed by flooding. Joseph Makamba, field supervisor, also showed them the station’s winter nursery, which had over seven hectares dedicated to nurseries and seed multiplication. Unfortunately, frequent power outages make nursery irrigation sporadic; during the visit Makamba had to travel 60 km to bring national power supply technicians to repair overhead power lines and restore electricity to the pumping station.
“I am impressed by the commitment, dedication, and ingenuity showed by the CIMMYT teams in Kenya and Zimbabwe,” said Ferguson, who also visited partner institutions with Mulugetta Mekuria, CIMMYT-Zimbabwe economist. While in Kenya, he urged staff to take the initiative and be creative in identifying solutions to problems and to share the solutions amongst themselves and with Corporate Services. “We will strive to streamline general administration and support services so that you can comfortably do what you do best,” he told staff.
De la O was especially touched by the temporary workers she met in Harare, many of whom are mothers that leave their families for months at a time to make ends meet. “I would like for all employees to have the same level of benefits, regardless of where they’re from or if they are temporary or permanent,” she said. “We want to offer a better level of support and work in a global sense.” De la O addressed some issues on the spot, and will followup with others after an analysis of all the regional offices and making a strategic HR plan.
“I feel a huge commitment to the people I met,” she said. “It was a very moving, emotional experience and I’m excited and enthusiastic about continuing my work with CIMMYT.” De Anda expressed similar feelings, saying, “This experience helped me to understand what CIMMYT is behind the finances and numbers. We all know poverty exists in the world, but it’s different when you really see it with your own eyes.”