Who’s speaking at the 2019 Land Accelerator?

From serial entrepreneurs to investors and technical experts, the speaker lineup that we have put together for our cohort is diverse and experienced.

Agnes ManthiRoot Capital
Having grown up in a farming environment in eastern Kenya, Agnes has been interested in agriculture for a long time. For ten years, she worked in the microfinance industry offering microloans to mostly smallholder farmers. At Root Capital, she loves that she can support the growth of businesses that create opportunities for hundreds or even thousands of farmers in vulnerable environments. As Root Capital’s business development officer for East Africa, she supports the growth and diversification of the regional portfolio by generating new clients and researching new opportunities.

Amanda Gant, World Resources Institute
Amanda recently joined WRI as its Accelerator Manager. Previously, Amanda served as a Small Business Lending Officer at Washington Area Community Investment Fund (Wacif) and the Latino Economic Development Center, where she closed over fifty loans to small businesses. She also has many years experience organizing startup boot camps and virtual mentorship programs to support entrepreneurs in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Amanda holds a Master’s degree in International Public Policy and a Bachelor’s degree in Foreign Service, both from Georgetown University.

Davinder Sikand, Cornerstone Angels
Davinder is an executive director at Catalyst Principal Partners, a $125 million Eastern Africa-focused private equity fund that invests in emerging and mid-sized companies with strong growth and profitability prospects, in alignment with experienced management teams. Davinder has 24 years of experience in private equity and investment banking gained in the United States, Europe and East Africa. He holds an MBA from Kellogg School of Business, Northwestern University, USA and qualified with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (UK).

Elizabeth Okunda, Facts Africa
Elizabeth is head of Sales & Marketing at Facts Africa. She has over 15 years of experience in the marketing field. She was part of the team at the Commercial Bank of Africa that launched M-Shwari and oversaw various marketing campaigns including the “Member” campaign at Equity Bank, where she lent her skills as the marketing manager for 4 years. Elizabeth holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing) degree from Kenyatta University and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Communication at Daystar University.

James KimondoKenya Forestry Research Institute
James is the Chief Research Scientist at KEFRI. He obtained his BSc Forestry from University of Nairobi in 1983 and immediately joined the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute’s Forest Research Department. In 1984, he was awarded a Kenya-Canada General Training Fund scholarship to pursue an MSc program at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. His research interests include using natural resources sustainably to benefit local communities. 

Jan Willem van Casteren, Value Chain Analysis and Development Expert
Jan Willem has extensive experience in agribusiness, agriculture, and public-private partnerships. His degrees in farm management, agricultural economics, and project management all inform his current work as a key expert on value chain analysis and development. He is responsible for coordinating a participatory value chain analysis and development strategy and providing training and technical assistance to Somalia’s Ministries of Agriculture and Ministry of Planning.

Kuki Njeru, Green Pot Enterprises
Kuki is director of Marketing and Outreach at Green Pot. Her blend of training skills, energetic personality, passion, and people skills have seen her open new markets and frontiers. She has gone to lengths to master what she now considers her new path – trees and the environment. Her bamboo expertise has seen her train many stakeholders including government officers, farmers and private landowners. She is the Vice Chair of the Bamboo Association of Kenya and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Systems and Technology. She graduated from the Land Accelerator in 2018.

Liz MuangeStawi Africa
Liz is a Program Manager at Stawi Africa, a blended finance initiative that will provide $50 million in financial incentives to increase lending in agriculture in East Africa. Previously she was the Deputy Director for Investment at the USAID East Africa Trade and Investment Hub. Liz has over 10 years of experience in entrepreneurship development, investment facilitation, trade facilitation, project management, financial advisory and risk management.  She has a Master in International Relations from the Catholic University of Milan, a B. Comm (Hons.) from the University of Nairobi, and work experience in over 12 countries.

Luni Libes, Fledge 
Luni is a 25+ year serial entrepreneur, founder of six startups; Entrepreneur in Residence and instructor at Presidio Graduate School; and Entrepreneur in Residence Emeritus at the University of Washington’s CoMotion, the center for impact and innovation. Luni is the author of The Next Step, a series of books and classes guiding entrepreneurs from idea to reality; plus blogger and incessant answerer of entrepreneurs’ questions on Quora. If the pattern is not obvious, Luni spends most of his waking hours helping entrepreneurs.

Lyndsey Vandament, Global Partnerships
Lyndsey is the investment director for the Social Venture Fund at Global Partnerships, an impact-first investor dedicated to expanding opportunity for people living in poverty. In the past, she has worked as a management consultant and as an Associate Director at the Clinton Health Access Initiative. She earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in economics from University of Alberta and University of Toronto. 

Maimbo Malesu, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
Maimbo is a program coordinator at ICRAF. He is an Agricultural Engineer with 30 years of experience in facilitating sustainable agricultural research and development through improved land and water management, conservation farming, agroforestry, soil and water conservation, irrigation and rainwater harvesting. He has worked within these fields as a training advisor, project implementer, and program coordinator. His work revolves around establishing best practices in water management for farmers and aims to better the livelihoods of small-scale farmers through increased land and water productivity.

Marije Schasfoort, DOEN Foundation
Marije is the program manager at DOEN Foundation, which supports pioneers who work hard to establish a greener, more socially-inclusive, and more creative society. Landscape restoration in East Africa is one of her key focus areas. She is passionate about social entrepreneurship, nature conservation, business creation and circular economies. Marije brings experience as an impact strategy advisor and social entrepreneur. 

Michael Musau, Alterfin
Michael Musau is a corporate finance professional with 15 years of industry experience. Michael is an Investment Manager at Alterfin. Alterfin is a Belgian social investor that, since 1994, raises capital to invest in developing countries via microfinance institutions and producers organisations. Prior to joining Alterfin, Michael worked for the World Bank’s IFC, a Kenyan commercial bank and a consulting firm supporting SMEs in corporate strategy and finance.

Michael Orang’i Onchabo, Rainforest Alliance Michael is a Senior Associate for Landscapes and Livelihoods at Rainforest Alliance, where he is a point of contact for farmers and stakeholders in the region, attends to technical questions on the certification program, and trains trainers. He has a background as a business development advisor for Fairtrade Africa, an independent consultant, Field Manager for the Wood Foundation, and as a Climate Change Trainer with Ethical Tea Partnership. He has degrees in soil science, agriculture/agronomy, and integrated soil fertility management. 

Moses Kimani, Lentera
Moses is the founder and CEO of Lentera Ltd., a farming technology company that enables farmers adapt to climate change through precision agriculture, climate-smart farm inputs and conservation agriculture. Prior to starting Lentera, Moses worked at TechnoServe Inc. and the Dow Chemical Company. He has an MBA from IMD Business School in Lausanne, Switzerland. Moses graduated from the Land Accelerator in 2018.

Paul Opanga, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
Paul is the Labour Issues Manager at the Forest Stewardship Council, where he has developed criteria and indicators as coordinator of the Core Conventions Working Group. Before taking this position, he was with FSC as Sub-regional Coordinator for East Africa. He has worked closely with stakeholders in grounding the Standard Development Group (SDG) in Tanzania and initiating dialogue with stakeholders on forest certification in the East Africa sub-region.

Salome Ndunda, Inconfin
Salome joined Incofin IM in 2018 as Investment Manager. Her key responsibilities include deal pipeline sourcing, negotiation and portfolio management of the African Agro Investments.  She previously worked at DOB Equity, a Dutch private equity fund focused on East Africa, and Horizon Africa Capital, an advisory boutique firm, in the debt transaction team. Her experience cuts across various sectors, including waste management, agribusiness, education and healthcare. Salome graduated with a Masters from Aberdeen University in Finance and Investment and has successfully completed all three levels of the CFA exams.  

Samuel Rigu, Safi Organics
Samuel is an environmentally conscious agribusiness manager, a social entrepreneur and an innovator with a BSc. in Agribusiness Management from the University of Nairobi in Kenya. Samuel comes from a rural Kenyan farming family and grew up witnessing how farms in his village were degraded by their dependence on synthetic fertilizers. Samuel founded Safi Organics in 2015, a company that decentralizes fertilizer production by converting farmers’ crop waste into high-yielding, carbon-negative organic fertilizers. Previously he founded a company producing eco-friendly mosquito coils from biochar. He graduated from the Land Accelerator in 2018.

Sapna Shah, Novastar Ventures 
Sapna is the investment director at Novastar Ventures Ltd., a venture capital & private equity firm backing innovative businesses addressing the needs of the low-income mass markets in Africa. She brings over 11 years of private equity, restructuring and banking experience developed across Europe, North America & the Middle East, with a current focus on private equity investing in East Africa.

Sofia Faruqi,World Resources Institute
Sofia manages the New Restoration Economy at WRI, which fosters innovation and entrepreneurship to restore degraded forests and farmland around the world. She created the Land Accelerator in 2018, and she is the lead author of “The Business of Planting Trees.” Prior to joining WRI, she worked at several investment management funds and was focused on public equities. She has also been an entrepreneur three times. Sofia holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Arabic from Dartmouth College and an MBA from the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania. She is a CFA charterholder.

Will Anderson, World Resources Institute
Will is the communications specialist for WRI’s Global Restoration Initiative. He helps the team communicate the benefits of restoring degraded land by working with regional initiatives, like AFR100 in Africa and Initiative 20×20 in Latin America, and programs like the Land Accelerator. He earned a BA from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, United States and an MA from Sciences Po in Paris, France.