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Welcome Back, Andrea!

Meet Andrea McNees, of Pleasanton, Calif., who recently worked in Tanzania. After being on leave, she is now back as a board member for Breaking Ground. She talked recently about her agriculture and development work in Tanzania, which are also key focus areas for Breaking Ground: 

Food sovereignty, income security, project sustainability. When I work in the developing world, I look for responsible organizations focusing on these values. Breaking Ground is one of them -- with its goal of improving Cameroonian living conditions without overwhelming local resources.

My interest in agriculture began in a city -- London -- at the height of Oxfam's fair trade campaign, and it drove me to work for an agricultural distribution company that had production regions across North and Central America. Here I also developed an interest in labor reform. After traveling through India and south-east Asia, I saw directly the needs of subsistence farmers in the developing world. So I began the international agricultural development master's program at the University of California, Davis, with a focus in conservation agriculture.

Between 2011 and 2012, I worked with 2Seeds Network to design and manage a development project in Kwakiliga, Tanzania, where I taught people small business skills and improved agricultural technologies for sunflower oil production. Having spent 11 months working closely with these remarkable farmers, whose high spirits directly contradicted their unfortunate life circumstances, serves as a daily reminder of how little separates us from people born into poverty.  

There is a Swahili proverb often used at farewells, which my own Tanzanian father used upon my departure from Tanzania:

Milima haikutani, bali wanadamu hukutana. (Mountains do not meet, but people meet). 

It is meant to lessen the sadness upon saying goodbye by instead celebrating the gift of having met, which I see as the very reason why I have dedicated my career to poverty reduction. People, connections, opportunities. It is for these reasons that I am fortunate to work with like-minded individuals at Breaking Ground who share this unique background in and dedication to development.

In the immediate future, I intend to continue my development work stateside and am fortunate to be a board member with Breaking Ground.


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