Mieke van Reenen

Can you please tell us about your work?

Currently, I am the Programme Manager for Public-Private Partnerships at GAIN’s representative office in the Netherlands. In this role, I oversee several partnerships in which Dutch stakeholders work together to improve food systems and the nutritional status of people in developing countries. These stakeholders range from businesses and governments to civil society organisations and academia. In the Netherlands, these multi-stakeholder partnerships are called the “Dutch diamond”.

One of the projects I oversee in Tanzania, called “Vegetables for all”, seeks to help the entire supply chain by improving production of vegetables, improving access to finance for farmers, increasing availability of vegetables by drying them for the low season and creating demand for vegetables by running consumer campaigns. A similar vegetable project in South Africa is also part of my portfolio.

Besides managing existing projects, I continuously seek new opportunities and potential partnerships with Dutch stakeholders.

What programmes does the GAIN Netherlands office run?

The main role of the GAIN Netherlands office is to involve the Netherlands in the global nutrition challenge, by partnering with different stakeholders. We also work closely together with the Dutch government, which has food and nutrition security high on its agenda. GAIN Netherlands is also a member and host of the Secretariat of the Netherlands Working Group on International Nutrition (NWGN). 

Many of the programmes we manage in the Netherland’s office, such as Workforce Nutrition or Urban Governance for Nutrition, are part of a broader framework at GAIN.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy working with different organisations and different people. Each individual might have his or her own objectives and motivations, but we are all working together towards that same goal. For us at GAIN, the end goal is to improve the lives of the people most vulnerable to malnutrition. Therefore, I especially enjoy the stories from the field and the appreciation of the communities we serve. It makes my job so meaningful.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

One of my biggest challenges is the ever-changing reality in the field. In the development sector, we are used to work with timelines and activities that are neatly designed on paper, but, in real life, you constantly have to change your workplan due to changes in national legislation, priorities or business strategy. Finding a balance between the workplan approved by our donors on paper and the reality on the ground can be quite challenging.

Another challenge is to build effective partnerships. It is great to see different partners working together, speaking the same language, and sharing objectives and motivations. But getting to that point is sometimes a real challenge.

Which is your greatest achievement so far?

I believe that my greatest achievement so far is my contribution to changing the lives of the people we seek to serve. You can build a successful partnership, you can gather strong data or have a positive evaluation, but for me the best feeling is when I get feedback from people and communities telling us that we made a difference in their lives.