Transitions at the Secretariat: ACA Bids Farewell to Grace Hoerner
At the end of June, ACA said goodbye to a valued team member, Grace Hoerner. Grace had been with the ACA for exactly one year, working as a Communications Assistant, and was instrumental in implementing a major overhaul of ACA’s communications strategy. Originally from New Jersey, in the United States, Grace came to work at the ACA through Princeton in Africa, a program that seeks to develop young leaders committed to Africa’s advancement through yearlong fellowships with a variety of organizations that work across the African continent. After leaving Ghana, Grace reflected on her time with ACA and shared some of the highlights of her experience.
What do you feel was your biggest contribution while working for the ACA?
My focus with ACA was on its communications offer, and I hope I have improved ACA's ability to disseminate crucial information and promote ACA and the African cashew industry as a whole. In particular, I'm very proud of ACA's new website. This year has really taught me the veracity of the old cliché "knowledge is power", and I hope I have contributed to the spread of knowledge about cashew in Africa.
After a year in Ghana at ACA, how did your impressions and understanding of the cashew industry evolve?
When I arrived at ACA, cashew was just another nut for me. I had no idea about the huge role it plays in so many farmers' lives in Africa, no idea about the complex and labor-intensive processing that was required to turn the raw nut into the tasty kernels I was familiar with, no idea that the cashew apple even existed! Now, a year later, when I eat a cashew I now see the faces of the farmers, processors, traders who may have contributed to getting it to me. I've been thoroughly convinced of the benefits that a competitive African processing industry would bring - not only via jobs created for rural Africans, but also for the international industry as a whole.
Do you have a favorite ACA memory?
Probably attending the 6th ACA Annual Conference - seeing all the major cashew players from around the globe converge in The Gambia of all places and feeling the palpable energy and excitement in the air about African cashew. I'll also always remember being there when the first processing factory was approved for the ACA Seal - it was the culmination of so much hard work by so many people, and really felt like the start of something big for the industry.
What are you plans after working at ACA, and how has your work here influenced your future goals?
I'm returning to the United States to begin a master’s program at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in New York City in Economic Development. I know everything I've learned at ACA, ranging from knowledge about value-addition in agriculture to specific communication skills, will greatly inform my studies and my future career. In particular, I've really been struck by the huge potential of harnessing and engaging the international private sector in areas where their interests intersect with development implications, and hope to explore this more in the future.
What will you miss most about the ACA?
Undoubtedly all of the wonderful people I've met through ACA - at the Secretariat, in the governing bodies, in the National Committees. I've really been inspired by the commitment so many different people show towards growing the African cashew industry, and have been privileged to call some of them colleagues and friends.