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Mary Onsongo
Program Management Specialist, Acting Policy Team Lead , USAID Kenya and East Africa, USDA/FAS East Africa and Research Outfit in Kenya
New York, United States
Program Management Specialist with over 20 years experience with two US government based organizations in East Africa (USAID Kenya and East Africa and USDA/FAS. Main focus areas include but not limited to Regional Agricultural trade and Marketing, Agricultural Research Policy Formulation & Programming, Food Security, Capacity Building, Operational Leadership, Networking and Partnerships/Donor
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Area of Expertise:
  • Agriculture, Livelihoods, Microfinance, Rural
  • Capacity Building, Training, Advocacy
Professional Experience:
Over twenty years of regular service serving in two Kenya and East Africa based U.S. government (USG) organizations with bilateral and regional coverage. Under UDSDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Nairobi based office I was the Principal National Assistant and regional expert Advisor; Oversaw the implementation and monitoring of all FAS/USDA humanitarian assistance programs, Provided viable solutions to agricultural policy problems between the U.S. and the region, Developed significant contacts with senior host government officials, and public and private sector officials, Served as liaison with Embassy and USAID colleagues for issues requiring collaborative effort, Advised the FAS office Head regarding analytical issues, trade, and FAS program issues in the region and Proactively assisted in developing the post’s agricultural country plan including the full range of agricultural research, reporting, and technological exchange.

Under the USAID Kenya and East Africa (KEA) I managed and co-managed a huge portfolio of approximately $ 500 Million that includes bilateral and regional investments as well as U.S. Presidential Initiatives such as Feed the Future (FTF), Trade Africa, Power Africa, and Prosper Africa, among others. Primarily Overseeing viable regional programs designed to implement the USG's Global Food Security Strategy (GFSS) under East Africa (EA) regional plan; Leading a large, complex, and vibrant policy portfolio of investments organized across 10 teams - Resilience, Food Security, Energy, Investment, and Trade, and WASH; Accelerating the growth of the OEGI Policy team and the agriculture, water sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector through strategic leadership and delegation; Developed extensive insights on regional food security and policy issues to both OEGI's Technical Centers of Excellence; Pioneered the structuring of a smooth transition for the incoming policy team leader via comprehensive training resources on policies to ensure continuity; Actively collaborating with 55+ staff including 6 U.S. Direct Hires (USDH) and two seconded staff from the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Effective liaison with EAC to improve East Africa through value-added production, enhanced food security, trade, and investment; Managing COMESA Seed Harmonization and Implementation Plan that aims to enhance the development of seed systems; Fostering agreements with CGIAR international agriculture research institutions to scale up proven agricultural technologies in Kenya and the region and provided direction for the Food Security policy agenda for OEGI for 2022, which was critical due to the escalation of food prices during the Ukraine war crisis.

Under a Kenya based coffee research institute I spearheaded domestic and international market research; I actively Participated in the formulation and implementation of the socio-economic research programs; Undertook timely, accurate, and comprehensive specialized studies on identified problems and major constraints; Recommended remedial actions related to the implementation of research activities; Conducted adaptive research and policy changes required to sustain an enabling environment for optimal coffee production; Led in socio-cultural, socio-economic research, and gender decision-making processes and Addressed constraints, barriers, and opportunities to the successful implementation of the coffee marketing mechanisms.

Overall I bring expertise in commodity marketing, food aid, food security programming, trade facilitation, partnerships and networking skills, scaling of technologies (seed and other agricultural technologies and innovations, relationship building and policy expertise
Master of Science Agricultural Economics, (Food Industry Marketing and Management), Wye College (University of London), United Kingdom, 1997 – 1998.

Bachelor of Arts, Economics and Geography, University of Nairobi, 1988 – 1991.
Affiliations and Achievements:
Spearheaded development and commercialization of technologies to mitigate aflatoxin in East, West, and Southern Africa, with an annual budget of $20M, partly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Proactively lifting 258,000 households out of poverty through the Feed the Future (FTF) Accelerated Value Chain Development program across Kenya and 9 other countries in East Africa; Implementing the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) portfolio of FTF and economically viable programs, with an annual budget of $6M; Representing USAID through exemplary leadership as a member of the Mission Leadership Council, a COVID/KEA Taskforce member, and the Regional Platform review; Demonstrated adeptness and strategic, political, and technical acumen in shaping the development of USAID wellness and development goals; Successfully transitioned from Regional Feed the Future (FTF) Team Lead to the Policy Team Lead within the new APPS Center at USAID; Leading as a Board Member of the Aflasafe Technology Transfer and Commercialization program and Activity Manager at USAID; Serving as the Agreement/Contracting Agreement Officer’s Representative (A/COR) for the East Africa Trade and Investment Hub (EATIH), with a budget of $65M for 5 years; Participated in developing Aflasafe, a biocontrol product, in liaison with USAID, IITA, and National Agricultural Research Institutions; Initiated strident efforts in buffering, delegating, and mentoring staff to take on both bilateral and regional roles at USAID; Accomplished cohesion of programming across the regional portfolio, with ongoing RECs, newer entities, and the Agency's Africa Trade and Investment (ATI) activity.

Key design member of the % year Kenya Country Development Cooperation strategy and the Regional Development Cooperation Strategy (2020-2025), Led the development of the East Africa GFSS Feed the Future Plan.
Key Design Member of the over USD 100 Million Trade Mark East Africa's Economic Reform and Recovery Activity recently awarded
Key Achievements
? Strategy/Activity Design and management: Under both the bilateral and regional FTF (Annual budget of $ 70 M) I led and co lead the design and implementation of over 10 activities in the last 5 years, I was the Regional agriculture trade and Policy technical Lead for the recently awarded USD 100 M TradeMark East Africa Activity. The activity will leverage over USD 500M from other donors to improve Food security in the region.
? Improved Policy and Regulatory Environment: Established a a multisectoral (Agriculture, Energy WASH, Trade, Investment and Resilience) Policy Champion group that aims to build problem solving organizations that are information rich with capacity to engage on complex interconnected challenges by focusing on learning and on building the capabilities necessary to identify and address the public good gaps that limit diversification to adopt new knowhow. Several regional and National policies developed and MOUs signed
? Scaling Agricultural Technologies: Provided technical lead to CGIARs, academia and research institutions to develop, disseminate, and scale scientifically proven technologies to address major agricultural threats such as aflatoxin, FAW, rinder pests, MLN. Spearheaded development and commercialization of aflasafe to mitigate against aflatoxin in the continent ($40M)
? Poverty Reduction: . Proactively lifting over 500,000 households out of poverty through, scaling technologies (quality Seed), strengthening market systems, increasing investments to the SMEs and driving inclusivity and diversity across the program cycle
? Deepened private sector engagement and partnerships: Steered considerable improvement in maternal, child health, and nutrition outcomes by liaising with USAID/Kenya Health, Population, and Nutrition to develop effective and adaptable strategies. Developed over 50 partnerships to improve food and nutrition security amongst the most vulnerable communities

Available for:
  • Job opportunities

    Years of Experience:
    More than 20 years
    Highest Qualification:
    English, Kiswahili
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