Hi Genevieve! What is your full name and where are you from?

My name is Genevieve Atieno Owuor, and I hail from Kenya. I was born in Tanzania, where my father was employed. I initiated my primary education in Tanzania before relocating to Kenya with my parents when I reached the third grade.

What is your learned or studied profession/trade?

I am a food scientist by profession, with additional studies in various fields including General Agriculture, Livestock Feeds Formulation, and Pig Husbandry.

Which year did you start working at VSF-Suisse?

I became a part of VSF-Suisse on September 1st, 2008.

What is your position now and in which VSF-Suisse Country Office do you work?

My current position is Consortium Manager in the Kenya program, and I am based in Isiolo County.

What is your favorite part/aspect of your work?

As a consortium manager implementing a resilient building project in a drought-prone area like Isiolo County, my favorite aspect of the work revolves around the tangible impact we’re making on the lives of the communities we serve.

Witnessing the transformative impact of our resilient building initiatives in vulnerable regions is immensely gratifying. Knowing that we’re not merely providing re-sources, but crafting enduring livelihood structures capable of weathering the challenges of recurrent droughts fills me with profound satisfaction. These livelihood endeavors serve as beacons of hope and resilience for community members, offering them a secure refuge in the face of adversity.

Working closely with local stakeholders and communities to co-create solutions tailored to their specific needs and circumstances is incredibly gratifying. Building strong partnerships and engaging in participatory processes ensures that our projects are not only effective but also sustainable in the long term. Witnessing the empowerment of local communities as they take ownership of these projects and become active agents of change is truly inspiring.

Moreover, the opportunity to innovate and pioneer new approaches to resilient building practices in challenging environments like Isiolo County is exhilarating. Con-stantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, whether through utilizing innovative materials or implementing cutting-edge technologies, keeps the work dynamic and exciting.

Overall, my favorite part of being a consortium manager in this context is the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of vulnerable communities, while also collaborating with dedicated partners and stakeholders to drive positive change and build a more resilient future together.

What are the biggest challenges in your work?

As the consortium manager and team leader for five organizations, my primary responsibility lies in nurturing a collaborative environment where each partner’s unique strengths, cultures, and methods are aligned towards our common goals. Achieving harmony among these diverse elements, while respecting each organization’s individuality, presents a complex challenge. Central to this role is also ensuring that our project’s objectives resonate with the varied priorities and expectations of our partners, necessitating continuous dialogue, adaptability, and a shared vision to keep all stakeholders committed and engaged.

In my capacity, I am entrusted with the responsibility of coordinating activities and preparing comprehensive reports for our esteemed donor. This duty mandates that the achievements of our project are articulated with clarity and that pivotal information is disseminated with transparency and accuracy. Such responsibilities necessitate a steadfast dedication to detail and an in-depth understanding of the project’s breadth and importance. Furthermore, the challenge of managing coordination across varied geographic and cultural contexts, alongside maintaining team morale and unity in the face of adversity, extends beyond mere strategic and managerial proficiency. It requires a harmonious blend of empathy, patience, and the skill to cultivate trust and cohesion among a diverse assembly of stakeholders. Each day presents a valuable chance to surmount differences and propel collaborative advancement.

What is a memory from your work that you will never forget?

Upon joining my position at VSF-Suisse in 2008, I eagerly anticipated an adventure. The prospect of being assigned to Mandera, an unfamiliar destination, filled me with excitement. Unfortunately, my time in Mandera was cut short due to security concerns, prompting an evacuation to Wajir.

In Wajir, my initial assignment involved traveling with my male colleagues to Diff, a location bordering Somalia. As I prepared for the journey, a colleague questioned the presence of my suitcase, deeming it peculiar. Despite suggestions that it might be unnecessary for a brief trip to Diff, I insisted, stressing the importance of having a change of clothes.

Little did I know that this decision would lead to a remarkable experience during my fieldwork. With no designated sleeping quarters, we found ourselves spreading our mattresses by the roadside. Before 5 am, under the high sun and amidst passing pedestrians, we woke up, folded our meager mattresses, and commenced our day.

The subsequent night brought us to the area chief’s compound, where he graciously permitted us to spend the night. It was a truly unforgettable experience, shaping my perspective in ways I never anticipated.

In response to the challenging conditions faced by the officers, VSF-Suisse later constructed a shelter in the area. This facility became the go-to unit for other organizations seeking refuge. Eventually, it was handed over to a women’s group, who transformed it into an accommodation space for visitors, generating income for the group. The transformation of adversity into a sustainable resource underscored the resilience and adaptability required in such demanding environments.

In your opinion, what is different about VSF-Suisse’s work compared to other organizations or actors (if anything)?

Over the course of my career, which began with more than twenty years of service at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries, joining VSF-Suisse marked a pivotal change in my professional journey. I am currently celebrating my fifteenth year with VSF-Suisse, a tenure surpassed only by my time at the Ministry. This period has been characterized by my active participation in various projects funded by donors, aimed at fostering resilience within specific communities.

VSF-Suisse’s commitment to Kenya’s pastoral areas is unrivaled, particularly highlighted by its exceptional veterinary expertise that addresses the critical intersection of animal health, environmental sustainability, and human welfare. This focused approach not only seeks to enhance livestock productivity and ensure food security but also distinctly positions VSF-Suisse above other organizations. Especially in regions like Isiolo, the organization’s dedication to empowering pastoral communities through health management and environmental adaptation showcases a model of community-centric engagement that is both culturally sensitive and specifically designed to meet local needs. My role, particularly in the development of the camel milk value chain and the enhancement of livelihoods in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands, underscores the unique contributions of VSF-Suisse to sustainable development and resilience in these communities. Through leading a consortium of five organizations over the past four years, my work has contributed to strengthening the resilience of pastoralists and agro-pastoralists in Isiolo County, demonstrating VSF-Suisse’s long-term commitment to creating sustainable livelihoods and ensuring food security through its innovative restocking programs.

What is your passion besides work?

Apart from my professional pursuits, I have a passion for various hobbies. I particularly enjoy traveling, exploring new places, and experiencing diverse cultures. Reading is another pastime that brings me joy, as it allows me to delve into different worlds through literature. Additionally, I find solace in listening to soft music, which provides a soothing and relaxing escape from the demands of daily life. These hobbies not only contribute to my personal well-being but also serve as outlets for creativity and rejuvenation outside the realm of work.

Is there anything you would like to tell the world?

I hold a firm belief that the world has the potential to overcome extreme poverty. By implementing systematic measures, we can reduce the gap between the wealthiest and poorest individuals, promote gender equity and equality, address power imbalances, and ultimately cultivate vibrant, healthy, resilient, and sustainable ecosystems for both current and future generations. My conviction in this vision is strengthened by empirical evidence from working with individuals and communities striving to overcome poverty. This belief propels me to contribute tirelessly towards these goals, fueled by the tangible impact witnessed in collaboration with those dedicated to poverty alleviation.

Thank you so much, Genevieve!

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