Reimagining My Realities

Speak Your Mind: Baobab Summit 2021

Every year, Mastercard Foundation Scholars have a chance to enter the Speak Your Mind contest, where they share personal insights around the theme of the Baobab Summit. This year’s reimagine theme is one that resonates strongly with Scholars.  From spoken word to speeches, from dance to videos, each piece is poignant, compelling and deeply personal.

The last year has made me reimagine aspects of my life and adapt to situations that I would ordinarily think impossible. From effectively managing a social venture with my team remotely to starting an online master’s degree at the University of Edinburgh, the last year has been one of both challenges and opportunities in equal proportion. 

My name is Phenny Omondi. I work as the Agricultural Support Program specialist at One Acre Fund-Kenya. I am a mother of a cheerful son; a MSc student pursuing an International Development degree, and an entrepreneur, the founder of Dophia Agroforestry, a social enterprise that partners with farmers to plant high-value, multipurpose trees to improve soil health, diversify income, and conserve the environment. I am passionate about farming and the empowerment of farmers through the provision and improvement of resources, knowledge, and technology. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has created new realities that have pushed me to reimagine my roles as a student, mother, professional, and cofounder. By March 2020, I had worked at One Acre Fund for barely half a year, after a year of maternity leave. Before the COVID-19 breakout, I had drawn a professional progression roadmap for 2020, which included pursuing a postgraduate degree. I had applied to the University of Edinburgh and was waiting to be shortlisted. When I was selected for the final round of interviews to realize my dream to become a Mastercard Foundation Scholar, I was both excited and anxious. Excited because I had an opportunity to access a world-class education on a full scholarship. Anxious because this meant that more would be added to my plate of responsibility. Working remotely, online school and parenthood sent me to reimagine how to find direction and create balance. 

At work, the past year has presented opportunities for creativity and innovation. For instance, working remotely meant rethinking how we trained farmers. While leveraging technology for training was in the pipeline, working remotely sped up the launch of peer-to-peer learning among farmers using different digital platforms. In the first six months, we partnered with IDEO.org to redesign and revamp farmer learning journeys and experiences to achieve more impact. We worked on prototyping, iteration qualitative data collection, and analysis. The dynamics of working on a future-facing project like this were both challenging and insightful, particularly the human-centered design aspect. 

At school, learning about the different global development challenges sparked an interest to do more for my community. Local action goes a long way in ensuring the achievement of the Global Sustainable Development goals. This is the perspective I had when our social venture partnered with the International Tree Foundation to work with partner farmers to plant trees. Working with farmers over the past six months has taught me the value of partnerships and collaboration in community development. As the strategic partnerships lead for our venture, International Tree Foundation has mentored me on business development and impact. This has enabled me to draw a vision and milestone map for the venture, providing direction and focus on our work. 

I have always wanted to be present as a mother. In the past year, this has meant being very intentional with how I use my time. Work-life balance has never meant so much for me before and consequently I have learnt to become more self-aware. I have been able to use my energy to complete tasks and build relationships that support my growth. Balancing motherhood, work and school has required me to be adaptable, emotionally intelligent and prioritize what matters most. 

Indeed, reimagining the realities of the past year has pointed me towards the direction of growth; through mentorship, challenging the status quo, daring to go past limits, continuous learning, and collaboration. 

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