As a child I wanted to be a policeman, but my mother was quite scared by the risk associated with the profession. I also wanted to be a fireman, so I could save people and rescue cats from trees! In the end, I studied administration with an emphasis on banking, finance and accountancy. I had always been good in that area which I consider to be an art form, interpreting the numbers we use every day.
I first came into contact with agriculture when I went to work for Root Capital three years ago. I can remember my first trip to Guatemala like it was yesterday. It was so impressive to see all the work that goes into cultivating an agricultural product, then processing it for selling. It’s something that as consumers we sometimes don’t appreciate. For example, in the case of coffee, many of the organizations that grow it are practically in the mountains, and producers need to find transport for their crop. If it rains, the trucks can get stuck on the dirt roads. The coffee often travels a very long distance to be processed and then exported, or sold locally.
What impresses me is that the farmers and everyone who works at the co-operatives and coffee organisations always have a smile, they wish you well and always have a cup of their own coffee to serve you. Even though they face many challenges, they are willing to share what little they have with you. That really stays with you.
I never thought about working in the agriculture sector, but now that I do, I wouldn’t change it for anything else.
At Root Capital, I took a job as a Financial Analyst, monitoring credit in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and part of Mexico. I was in change of doing initial finance analysis with clients who want to apply for credit. Quite often I had to do short training calls with clients over Skype, to show them how to fill in our financial forms. The next stage, if the application was approved, was monitoring their repayments, checking that there were no problems in terms of quality, and ensuring that their contracts for local sale and export were fulfilled.
Now, I work as a Risk Analyst, which has been a challenge because I have had to learn a lot about commerical agriculture and a lot of the legal aspects. I work with clients who have trouble making repayments, working to find solutions to recover the initial investment and in most extreme cases, working on court cases. I also give training on how to minimise risk within our Central American portfolio.
I think that right now, not many young people are getting involved in agricultural caeers, because it is easier to get involved in administrative, technological and commerial sectors. There is a lot of information in the mass media about these careers, but there is very little information about agriculture, at least that is the case in Costa Rica. I have worked in a lot of fields, but agriculture has been the best. I have learnt so much about the production of various products, through research, and asking questions. The best part, as far as I am concerned, is understanding the real effort that goes into producing all those products we consume.
What recommendations would I give to young people interested in my career? You should decide what you want, and fight for it. There will always be things that get in your way, but you should always take is as an opportunity to learn something. Knowledge is power and the most important thing you can do is believe in yourself.
There are many careers that involve agriculture, you can choose one that you like. Your family, a farmer, and you yourself will feel very satisfied with whatever contribution you are able to make. Don’t forget – you might need a doctor, a lawyer or an architect once in your life. But every day, three times a day, you need a farmer.
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