Progress Chisenga is a former TechnoServe Fellow who worked in Mozambique in late 2019 through early 2020.
During her fellowship, she worked on a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation project supporting Agriculture Technology Demonstration Centers (ATDC) in Mozambique. Her role entailed developing the brand for the ATDC and ensuring brand visibility awareness to encourage rice and vegetable farmers to take their farms to the next level.
In this Q&A, Progress shares what her experience was like on the ground and how it impacted her views on development.
Q: What project(s) did you work on?
A: I was a Fellow in Maputo, Mozambique. I worked with the TechnoServe team on a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation project supporting agricultural technology institutions helping rice and vegetable farmers. When I arrived in Mozambique, there was limited external awareness about what the institutions could offer. They were supposed to help smallholder farmers learn new ways to grow crops, use agricultural equipment, and understand what types of crops would grow based on their farm’s soil.
My role was to assist with the development of the brand identity, and build awareness and visibility using an integrated communications approach. The objective was to ensure the targeted communities and individuals could reach out to the institution for support. Basically, I put together all the communication elements, reviewed research results, and shared those with key stakeholders. I was delighted to take stakeholders through the marketing process and was overjoyed when the project lead shared the logo on a flyer months after my fellowship ended. That is something that is very close to my heart even today.
I am passionate about agriculture and marketing now. I know marketing is like a rose flower: it needs someone to tend it, so it can blossom fully. I saw the TechnoServe project as a flower that needed a marketing person to help it blossom to the fullest, so people can get to appreciate what it has to offer. It helped the smallholder farmers we worked with get their projects to the next level.
Q: What was it like when you arrived on the ground in Mozambique?
A: I think the most interesting part of my fellowship was that I had never been to Mozambique before. It was an opportunity that I still cherish. I am not a Portuguese speaker, so that was another challenge. I told myself that I needed to know how to greet people, say goodbye, say I was lost.
That was something exciting; I love languages.
The team I worked with was very supportive, especially when it came to helping me get around, figuring out where to go, and ensuring that I had all the things I needed. The team made it easy to carry out the Fellowship program without missing home, which I’m grateful for even today.
Q: How has seeing TechnoServe’s work firsthand impacted your views on philanthropy?
A: I think the impact was very positive. Previously, I’d always worked for private companies and never for organizations alleviating poverty in the development sector. It was very inspiring because the team worked as a family, and I admired this greatly.
Although they came from various backgrounds, they knew they were on one mission: to alleviate poverty through various initiatives. It made it easier for me to fit in, because I felt a part of that family.
Q: How has the TechnoServe Fellows Program impacted you and your career path?
A: My experience in Mozambique brought farming closer to me, and it will live with me forever. Unfortunately during the program, I lost my dad. He left a family project for us, as he had a farm in the central part of Zambia. The Fellow experience helped me want to further improve farming. I knew that when I got home, I would help my mother ensure that she held onto that farming project.
I’ve continued using the tools and the insights that I got from my experience as a Fellow in Mozambique. In terms of what I’m doing now, I’m a co-founder of my family’s gym. I’m using the communications and marketing skills that I used with TechnoServe to bring the gym to life, so that customers can hear about an inviting place.
Q: What advice do you have for someone thinking about becoming a Fellow?
A: I would tell them to go for it, regardless of what stage they are in their career. As human beings, we have to keep on learning. Being in such a program will be an opportunity to learn about various aspects of life—the way to relate to others, the way to embrace diversity, the way to learn about different cultures. Also, being a Fellow provides the opportunity to learn more about TechnoServe and development in a practical setting instead of just reading about it.
Learn more about the TechnoServe Fellows Program and how you can apply today.
The TechnoServe Fellows program is a highly competitive fellowship where business professionals contribute their skills to help change the lives of those living in poverty. Since 1996, TechnoServe has engaged over 1,000 Fellows on three- to twelve-month projects throughout Africa, India, and Latin America and the Caribbean.