Cracking the Nut 2023 .

Event | June 12, 2023

Chemonics was proud to sponsor the 2023 Cracking the Nut conference, held June 12-13, 2023 at the Chemonics-Washington headquarters.

Chemonics was thrilled to welcome nearly 200 leading public and private sector experts to our Washington, D.C. headquarters to share experiences and best practices for reducing risk and supporting rural agricultural investment. The 2023 Cracking the Nut conference was organized around three themes:
1.  Reducing risks associated with rural and agricultural investments;
2.  Using subsidies and blending commercial capital to achieve development impacts;
3.  Integrating underserved populations into commercial markets.

Our experts presented in the following sessions:

The Art of the Pivot: Investing in Chaotic Times

Economic growth must contend with the harsh reality of recurrent and overlaying shocks. Programs facing chaos must pivot and respond with no advance notice. In this session, project leaders from Ukraine, Lebanon, and the Horn of Africa shared recommendations for engaging firms and communities amidst the chaotic contexts of war, economic collapse, and extreme drought, to create opportunities for transformation.

Colombia Inclusion Study: Empowering Local Actors to Define and Measure Financial and Social Inclusion

Inclusive programming must go beyond standard donor indicators tracking the number of women, youth, or other targeted groups who participate or benefit from a program. Based on our work in Colombia, speakers shared recommendations for how development practitioners can effectively seek out and understand local definitions of inclusion, facilitate local partner definitions where they are absent yet desired, co-design programming in alignment with those definitions, and develop and track specific metrics aligned with those definitions to assess inclusive development over time.

The Role of Green Finance in International Development

In the context of USAID’s commitment to mobilizing more than $150 billion in climate finance by 2030, Chemonics International and USAID’s Climate Finance for Development Accelerator convened a panel of private sector leaders to discuss corporate investments and actions to promote greener, more sustainable, and more climate resilient agricultural supply chains around the world.



A professional headshot of Chris Adamo smiling at the camera.Chris Adamo
Vice President, Public Affairs and Regenerative Agriculture Policy
Danone North America

Chris Adamo is Vice President at Danone North America for Public Affairs and Regenerative Agriculture Policy, assisting the world’s largest B Corp with strengthening the role of business in driving social and environmental good for all. Chris previously spent over a decade at the highest levels of the federal government working on issues related to agriculture, environment, and nutrition. He served as chief of staff for President Obama’s White House Council on Environmental Quality from 2015 until the end of the Administration in 2017, where he helped lead the President’s agenda on climate change and conservation. After serving in the Obama Administration, Chris spent 2017 as a senior fellow at National Wildlife Federation advising on a host of issues such as sustainable agriculture, climate change, natural resources and water. From 2011-2015, he led the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry as its staff director for the negotiations and drafting of the 2014 Farm Bill, which included new opportunities for landscape-scale conservation and unprecedented investments in healthy foods. Chris graduated with a degree in economics and business from Kalamazoo College and a law degree from Vermont Law School.

Professional headshot of Sashi Jayatileke. She is standing outside in front of a tree with changing leaves. Sashi Jayatileke
Senior Climate Finance Advisor
USAID Center for Energy, Environment, and Infrastructure

Sashi is a Senior Climate Finance Advisor with the USAID’s Center for Energy, Environment, and Infrastructure in Washington, DC. She leads coordination and provides technical leadership on climate finance to USAID and its partners seeking to mobilize finance for climate goals.  She also oversees the Climate Finance for Development Accelerator (CFDA), a USAID initiative designed to mobilize $2.5 billion in public and private climate investments by 2030 to fund a range of climate change mitigation and adaptation solutions focused on scaling up the transition to an equitable and resilient net-zero economy.  Sashi brings two decades of experience in the design, development, and implementation of projects focused on private sector development, impact investing, women’s economic empowerment, and financial inclusion. Ms. Jayatileke has previously worked on structuring financial transactions using guarantees, human centered product design for new markets, and product development for financial institutions in Africa and Asia.  She holds a MSc from the London School of Economics, and a BA from Vanderbilt University.

Professional headshot of Sami Khairallah.Sami Khairallah
Deputy Chief of Party, Chief Technical Officer
USAID/Lebanon Agriculture and Rural Empowerment Activity

Sami Khairallah is a development professional with over 16 years of expertise supporting economic growth and local development programming in the Middle East and Haiti. Sami is currently serving as the deputy chief of party and chief technical officer on the $57 million, USAID-funded Lebanon Agriculture and Rural Empowerment (ARE) activity. Sami has strong technical and leadership skills, having successfully managed the start-up and implementation of complex agribusiness, water and sanitation, democracy, and governance programs designed to effectively and sustainably improve the lives of people in communities around the world.

Headshot of Heather Pfahl smiling at the camera.

Heather Pfahl
Global Director, Social Impact and Sustainability

Heather Pfahl is the Global Director of Social Impact and Sustainability at Starbucks. Heather is a cross cultural leader with more than 20 years of professional experience supporting the management of diverse teams working at the intersection of civic investments, sustainability, rural agriculture, technology, human rights, economic development, food security, and policy development. She has launched and led a global, multinational private sector platform dedicated to improving incomes, food security and productivity across supply chains. Before leading Starbucks’ Global Coffee, Tea, and Cocoa sustainability practice, Heather led the Global Socioeconomic Sustainability practice at Mars Inc. where she led Mars’ end-to-end living income/wage and sustainable sourcing strategies. Heather also led sustainable solution innovations which included managing a team of global scientists to pilot and scale the Mars Assisted Reef Restoration System in Indonesia, Australia, and Mexico, which is working to improve depredated below water ecosystems and linking to Mars Petcare Brand Sheba through “ Building Hope” campaign. Heather has a Masters in Natural Resource Management and Global Sustainability from Virginia Tech and an Executive Masters in Cultural Anthropology and a Bachelors of Science from University of Colorado Boulder.

Professional headshot of Kathy Rostkowski smiling at the cameraKatherine Rostkowski, PhD
Senior Director, Global Sustainability
McCormick & Co

Kathy Rostkowski is the Senior Director Global Sustainability at McCormick & Co., where she is responsible for leading the development of McCormick’s long-term, results-oriented sustainability strategy that elevates Purpose-led Performance. Purpose-Led Performance is McCormick’s ongoing commitment to delivering top-tier financial performance while doing what’s right for people; the communities where we live, work, and source; and the planet we all share. In this role, Dr. Rostkowski drives climate and sustainability practices globally and amplifies Purpose-Led Performance with key stakeholders. Prior to joining McCormick, Dr. Rostkowski served for over eight years at USAID, managing strategic corporate partnerships, designing large scale on-the-ground development programs, and implementing evaluation efforts to advance sustainable development outcomes. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Society for International Development-US. Dr. Rostkowski has a BS in Environmental Engineering from Yale University and a MS and PhD in Environmental Engineering from Stanford University where she focused on innovative sustainable packaging solutions and their impacts.

Jennifer Simpson's photoJennifer Simpson
Sr. Advisor, Applied Research

Dr. Jennifer Simpson is a highly driven and accomplished research and evaluation expert, experienced in study design, ethics, project management, data management, new business, and community-led development. At Chemonics, she leads development, testing, and quality improvement of applied research methods, with an emphasis on design and development of priority learning agendas, and development of rigorous qualitative and quantitative methods. Jennifer received her Ph.D in Epidemiology from Yale University. Over her career, she has expanded her expertise, conducting research across the globe with many different populations, varying local contexts, and a wide range of development sectors, including health, education, food security, and gender equity.

Professional headshot of Anne Spahr. She is standing outside, smiling at the camera.Anne Spahr
Chief of Party
USAID Climate Finance for Development Accelerator

Anne Spahr is the chief of party of the $250M Climate Finance for Development Accelerator (CFDA) and is a micro, small, and medium enterprise (MSME) finance and business development specialist with more than 15 years of experience designing and overseeing initiatives to facilitate finance and improve livelihoods for farmers, fishermen, and small business owners in developing countries and the United States. She previously served as the senior vice president of Chemonics’ Latin America and Caribbean region, and before that was the chief of party of the USAID-funded Asia and Middle East Economic Growth (AMEG) Best Practices project. Anne developed a guide for the Inter-American Development Bank on agricultural value chain finance in Latin America, including a review of impact investors and other financial institutions in Honduras, Mexico, Peru, and the United States. She holds an M.B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.A. in Latin American studies and Spanish literature from Cornell University.

Professional headshot of Jebiwot SumbeiywoJebiwot Sumbeiywo
Chief of Party
Feed the Future Cross Border Community Resilience Activity

Jebiwot Sumbeiywo is an accomplished project management professional and peacebuilding and conflict management expert with over 27 years of experience managing and implementing programs in Africa. She is the current chief of party on the five year, $19.8 million USAID-funded Cross Border Community Resilience Activity (CBCR) designed to enhance resilience among communities in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, and Somalia. She holds a master’s degree in conflict transformation from Eastern Mennonite University and a bachelor’s degree in criminology from the University of Windsor. Jebiwot has committed much of her professional career to organizational development, peacebuilding and conflict management, and gender-based violence programming and advocacy in the Horn of Africa region.

Professional headshot of Kseniya SydorkinaKseniya Sydorkina
Chief of Party
USAID Agriculture Growing Rural Opportunities Activity in Ukraine

Kseniya Sydorkina is the chief of party on the USAID-funded Agriculture Growing Rural Opportunities Program (AGRO) in Ukraine. Kseniya brings more than 15 years of experience working on large-scale agriculture, economic growth and local governance strengthening projects, including ten years leading operational and technical teams across Ukraine.  In response to the destruction inflicted by the war, she has led the AGRO program in efforts to engage Ukrainian small farmers to rebuild and transform the agricultural sector. Kseniya holds a B.A. in computer science, an M.A. in intellectual property, a MiniMasters in leadership and development, and is a is a certified Project Management Professional.

Professional headshot of Ashley Valle smiling towards cameraAshley Valle
Deputy Director
Land Innovation Fund

Ashley Valle is deputy director of the Land Innovation Fund, which was established with an initial contribution from Cargill and supports farm-focused, innovative solutions for a deforestation and conversion-free soy supply chain across three priority biomes in South America: the Cerrado, Gran Chaco, and the Amazon. She has more than 12 years of experience designing, establishing, and overseeing targeted and high-impact programs in Latin America and the Caribbean related to sustainable commodities and supply chains, nature-based solutions, and climate change adaptation and mitigation for government agencies and corporate partners. Prior to her work with the Land Innovation Fund, Ashley supported technical implementation and field operations for several complex USAID/Colombia projects in Chemonics’ Environment and Natural Resources portfolio and led new business initiatives for the Latin America and the Caribbean business unit.

Image of Jean-Michel VoisardJean-Michel Voisard
Senior Technical Advisor, Agriculture and Food Security

Jean-Michel Voisard, senior technical advisor in Chemonics’ agriculture and food security technical practice, has more than 25 years of experience facilitating inclusive growth in both high value export and food staple value chains. His experience in fostering market systems transformations covers field production and post-harvest systems, logistics and processing, trade finance, capital investments, climate risk insurance, and digital tools. These solutions link small farmers with private sector suppliers, processors, and traders through fast-scaling models. Jean-Michel began his career as a chartered accountant and later worked in the private sector as financial systems specialist for a large food distributor.