The Foundation's team
Our team’s mission is to establish and implement value for resource-poor small farmers in developing countries. We do so through innovation in sustainable agriculture and the activation of value chains. We want to build a more prosperous future for farmers, rural youth and their communities. We incubate initiatives and scale them up to deliver impact and improve livelihoods via agriculture.
Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture employees work in a wide range of functions, all focused on sustainable agriculture for smallholders. These include:
- Finance & Operations
- Legal and Board support
- Headquarters administration
- Research and Development
The Foundation’s headquarters are in Basel, Switzerland. Our country and regional staff are primarily based in:
- Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, China
- Senegal, Mali, Nigeria
Our more than 150 employees represent some 15 nationalities and a wide variety of professional backgrounds.
Simon Winter - Executive Director
Simon Winter became Executive Director in 2017. He joined the Syngenta Foundation from TechnoServe, where he had most recently been Senior Vice President, Development, in Washington, D.C., and previously led regional operations in sub-Saharan Africa, having joined in 2003. Simon was a management consultant with McKinsey and Company from 1998-2003, during which he co-led the firm's international development practice. He worked as an economic planner for the Botswana government, and a development consultant in Southern Africa. He started his career with Barclays Bank plc in the UK, Côte d'Ivoire, and Australia. From 2015-2017, Simon Winter was also a Senior Fellow of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government (HKS)*, where he researched into climate risks and sub-Saharan African food and agricultural systems, co-publishing three papers with the Harvard Corporate Responsibility Initiative. Simon additionally holds advisory positions with the World Economic Forum and the Initiative for Smallholder Finance. He currently chairs the Steering Committee of the Farm to Market Alliance and the board of ACRE Africa. He is a member of the Advisory Council of the Global Resilience Partnership. Simon originates from the UK and holds a Ph.D. in economics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1998, which focused on the development of the manufacturing sector in Zimbabwe. *Here are papers he co-authored at HKS on lessons from multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSI) in ag, on MSI & climate change, and on climate risks and Tanzanian maize (corn).
Marisa De Faveri - Office Manager
Marisa De Faveri has been responsible for administration since 1992, initially at the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development, and since 2001 at the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture.
Laura Ciliberto - Administrative Assistant
Laura Ciliberto joined the Foundation as Administrative Assistant in 2009. She previously worked for six years at Sandoz Agro Ltd., and then moved to Novartis International. Laura was responsible for the Novartis Foundation (formerly Ciba-Geigy-Jubilee-Foundation) for 12 years.
Yuan Zhou - Head of Agricultural Policy and China Program
Yuan Zhou leads the Foundation’s policy research and advocacy platform and oversees the China Program. She advises SFSA, our partners and governments on policy development related to agricultural subsidies, regional agricultural economic integration, seed policy and regulation, food safety standards and traceability, agricultural mechanization, agricultural insurance, technology innovation, and sustainability issues. Yuan led SFSA’s entry to China in 2018, including registering and setting up the China representative office, recruiting the local team, and launching smallholder programs. She is responsible for setting the strategic direction of China Program and defining a long-term strategy and framework for agricultural development. Previously, Yuan worked as an economist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG). Yuan holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Economics from Hamburg University and has an MBA from IMD in Lausanne. She has published two books and many journal articles on a wide range of topics related to food, agriculture, and the environment. A number of her publications are available here.
Lena Köver - Policy Program Manager
Lena’s major focus is to support the implementation of the policy and advocacy portfolio. Particular topics of interest include climate-smart agriculture, youth entrepreneurship, and the SFSA Policy Watch. Prior to joining the Foundation, Lena worked for the German Development Agency (GIZ) in Madagascar on public-private partnerships. She also worked in strategic consulting, where she advised multinationals on sustainable investments in emerging markets. Lena holds degrees from the University of Oxford (BA History and Politics, MSc African Studies) and the University of Basel (MBA, International Health Management).
Natalia Mezzenga - Finance and Operations Head
Natalia is a Certified Public Accountant with extensive experience in Finance. Before joining our Foundation in 2015, she worked in a range of managerial roles at Syngenta. Prior to that, she was with KPMG in her native Italy and the USA, where she worked as a public accounting manager. Natalia is now responsible for running Finance at the Syngenta Foundation, and for providing managerial and operational support around the "three C's": commitments, contracts and consultants.
Anna Kipnis - Finance Manager
Anna joined us in 2020. She had previously worked at Syngenta for 13 years, mainly supporting business units, for example in Africa and the Middle East (AME). Most recently, she focused on in-licensing with suppliers and on collaboration with Adama in the EAME region. At the Foundation, Anna provides financial support to program and country teams, oversees key processes and controls, and helps implement new processes and systems. Anna grew up in Ukraine and graduated from Germany’s Ruhr University Bochum. In her free time, she enjoys playing the mandolin and traveling.
Rebecca Hubert Scherler - Legal Counsel, Secretary to the Foundation Board
Prior to joining SFSA, Rebecca worked at Clyde & Co LLP, a leading global law firm, having trained at Bircham Dyson Bell LLP. She has extensive experience of prominent, multi-jurisdictional finance and corporate transactions, advising banks and other financial institutions, multinationals, high-net-worth individuals, government bodies and charities. Rebecca has a strong commitment to pro bono and fund-raising initiatives. She worked on a pro bono basis at a community legal advice clinic in London, which supported disadvantaged and vulnerable people. Rebecca grew up in the Sultanate of Oman and graduated from the University of Nottingham, UK.
Rachel Mansuy Marchal - Contracts Manager
Rachel is managing standard templates and contract reviews, with primary support for our West Africa and Seeds 2B programmes.
Michael Robinson - Chief Science Advisor
Mike Robinson worked for many years in R&D for industrial biosciences and, more recently, on biofuels technologies, renewable energy, and carbon accounting in agriculture. Previously, he worked as Senior Technology Analyst for the Syngenta Corporate Strategy & Technology group. He has been involved in the establishment and project management of several global collaborative research programs with academic and commercial organizations. Mike holds a PhD and graduated from Nottingham and Leeds Universities and Rothamsted Experimental Station in the UK.
Vivienne Anthony - Senior Scientific Advisor
Viv Anthony runs our Demand-Led Breeding program. She has a special interest in innovation, entrepreneurship and plant breeding. Viv was Head of Crop Enhancement Research at Zeneca, and Global Head of Crop Protection Product Development & Regulatory Affairs for Seeds and Biotechnology at Syngenta. She spent her early research years in fungicide invention, and is a named inventor on over 25 patents. She has a PhD in plant pathology and crop improvement from the University of Wales, and a Master’s in Business Management from Boston University. Viv is also an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Western Australia's Institute of Agriculture.
Dominik Klauser - R&D Lead
Dominik completed a PhD in molecular plant-microbe interactions at the Zürich-Basel Plant Science Center. In his professional career, Dominik worked on projects in Business Development at Syngenta both in Switzerland and the UK, and as an IP and technology transfer advisor to several European research institutions. Despite being Swiss, Dominik is neither a good skier nor an enthusiastic hiker. He also has a profound aversion to most kinds of cheese. In addition to his work at our Foundation, he lectures on crop management and plant physiology at Basel University, as well as being a sought-after speaker elsewhere. Dominik represents the Syngenta Foundation in SFIAR. He is a Plantae fellow of the American Society for Plant Biology, for which he has blogged about technology transfer. You can also read more about Dominik here.
Olga Speckhardt - Head of Global Insurance Solutions
Olga Speckhardt has many years' experience in international reinsurance and insurance. She holds a degree in Law and has a solid background in underwriting. Before joining the Foundation in 2012, she managed the reinsurance liability portfolio at Transatlantic Re, having previously led Swiss industry liability at HDI. Olga is now responsible for developing our relationships with international reinsurance and insurance partners. These form a crucial factor for the success and sustainability of our microinsurance program. Olga additionally has a seat on the Board of ACRE. In September 2014, she also became Chairwoman of the Swiss Capacity Building Facility (SCBF). You can read the SCBF 2017 annual report here, with a message from the chair.
Jean-Pierre Patzig - Insurance Program Manager
Jean-Pierre first worked for our Foundation as a Social Service Volunteer. In January 2019, he joined our Agricultural Insurance Solutions team, providing coordination and administrative support. Jean-Pierre graduated from Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts with a diploma in Business Administration, majoring in Public & Non-profit Management. In his previous career, he worked several years in the finance sector as well as in a local refugee aid organization. His leisure time includes playing football and volunteering for the Swiss Red Cross.
Robert Berlin - Head of Agriservices, Digital Delivery & Country Programs
Robert Berlin has many years' experience in sustainable agriculture and market development. Before joining the Foundation, he was senior program officer in the Income and Food Security Team at the non-governmental organization Intercooperation in Bern, Switzerland. He supported and advised partners on market development issues in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia, and fostered links between the private sector and development organizations. Previously, he worked in Peru and Kosovo (Intercooperation), and in Nicaragua (FAO), developing innovative approaches and helping smallholders capitalize on experience in rural market development. Robert holds a degree in agronomy and a Master's degree in international agriculture from Bern University of Applied Science.
Marnie Pannatier - Agriservices Program Manager, African Youth Initiatives
Marnie holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Lausanne University and a Master’s in Sustainable Development from Utrecht University. Before joining SFSA in 2017, she helped monitor and report on the Syngenta Good Growth Plan. Marnie focuses on scaling up smallholder outreach and the impact of Agriservices programs in Africa while unleashing youth potential for rural employment and entrepreneurship in the continent. She also volunteers at various youth organizations, empowering young people to develop socio-environmental projects. In August 2018, Marnie has been elected as the new YPARD Switzerland co-representative. The Young Professionals for Young Professionals for Agricultural Development is an international movement and discussion platform which enable Young Professionals all over the world to realize their full potential and contribute towards the innovative agricultural development.
Andrea Balmer - Program Manager, Agriservices & R&D
Andrea joined the Foundation in early 2019. For Agriservices, she is developing a platform for technology transfer and portfolio management. She also works on the SFSA performance measurement system. Andrea previously managed scientific projects and international collaboration in academia. Her passion for agriculture began as a farm child. Andrea graduated as an agronomic engineer in her native Ecuador, and holds a Ph.D. in plant pathology from the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. She believes strongly in sustainable agriculture’s ability to improve livelihoods in developing countries. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, photography and spending time with her family.
Mario Kunz - Smallholder Digital Solutions Lead
Mario joined the Foundation in 2020. He had worked the last 6 years at the Syngenta Africa and Middle East Territory as a Business Development and Digital Strategy Lead. He has also held a variety of IT roles at Syngenta and its predecessor companies. Mario holds an Information Science degree at Freiburg Business School in Germany.” He is an expert in remote sensing and digital agronomy solutions and a strong believer that these technologies will have the potential to improve the smallholders' lives. His passion for digital goes beyond work. At home, a fully digitally automated house and the garden are constantly being optimized with lots of new ideas. Mario enjoys photography, snowboarding, and scuba diving
Victoria Johnson-Chadwick - Head of Partnerships
Victoria joined the team in March 2014, after completing her Master in global management, specializing in marketing. She is now Head of Partnerships. In this role, Victoria ensures the smooth running of key Seeds2B programs and pursues external partnership and fundraising opportunities. Her Master's dissertation on the value chain for tef sparked her interest in the needs of smallholders as primary producers. Victoria enjoys traveling, hiking and skiing. She has dual Swiss and British citizenship.
Sunil Hemdev - Seeds2B Relationship Manager
Sunil joined our Seeds2B team in early 2019. He works with public and private partners and runs technical assistance to the Seeds for Impact program. Sunil previously led EAME vegetable seed production at Syngenta. He is passionate about agriculture in Africa, where his experience includes five years managing a company farm in Ethiopia. His tasks across the region included integrating assets, starting seeds production and ensuring operational excellence. Sunil believes deeply in the importance of new technology for sustainable agriculture. He graduated as an engineer from Bangalore University, India. He enjoys time with his family, reading, listening to music, hiking and traveling.
Miriam Gutherz - Program manager Seeds2B
Miriam holds a Master’s degree in Business & Economics from Basel University, and a Bachelor in Business Administration from the nearby FNHW. After several years in the finance sector she moved to agriculture as a Syngenta trainee, from where she joined the Foundation in 2018. She has also worked for the Swiss Embassy in Singapore. Miriam now supports the Seeds2B team in project management, budgeting, monitoring and communications. In her leisure time she is a volunteer firewoman and likes to make music.
Nathalie Vignaux - Seeds2B Operational Excellence Lead
Nathalie moved to the Foundation in 2018. In her newly created role, she is developing a portfolio management process and matching digital tool for Seeds2B. She is very keen on challenging the organization to adopt Agile principles! Nathalie also coordinates the BMGF AVISA project in Tanzania and Nigeria. Nathalie previously managed projects in seeds production research at Syngenta, including a digital tool for climatic growing areas. Before moving to Switzerland, Nathalie spent 15 years in the USA, where she studied and then worked at Monsanto. Nathalie graduated from the Superior National Agronomy School in Toulouse, France, and holds a PhD in plant breeding from North Dakota State University, USA. In her free time, she enjoys learning, trekking, running, biking, skiing and yoga.
Camille Renou - Seeds2B Lead Africa
In August 2018, Camille expanded his role to be Seeds2B Lead Africa. Camille develops and oversees the seeds strategy for Sub-saharan Africa working closely with the Head of Agricultural Partnerships, country directors and external partners. He joined the Foundation in January 2012 as a seed specialist in West Africa. Before that he had worked for Syngenta in France on the production and processing of cereal seed, primarily for hybrid barley. With Seeds2B, he was responsible for the seeds program in West Africa (focusing on Mali and Senegal). Camille is developing a platform to promote trialing and technology transfer to link breeders and local seed companies, in order to improve farmers’ access to better seeds of better varieties. Camille graduated in Agricultural Engineering from Angers, France, with majors in plant breeding and seeds production. Here's an interview.
Hervé Thieblemont - Regional Seed Business Development Lead, Asia
Hervé joined the Foundation in November 2017. In his newly created role, Hervé evaluates opportunities, develops business plans, and establishes partnerships to accelerate smallholders’ access to new technologies and services. He came to us from Syngenta, where he had most recently led the Hybrid Wheat & Cereals Solutions team. Before joining the company in 2007, he had worked for Limagrain and Monsanto. Hervé holds a degree in Agronomy from AgroSup Dijon and an MBA from EM Lyon, France.
Tony Gathungu - Head of Seeds2B, Africa
Tony joined the Syngenta Foundation in 2020 from Bayer / Monsanto in Kenya. He had most recently been their Commercial Operations Lead for Sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on product access for smallholders. He had previously led international business development at Frigoken, East Africa’s largest vegetable processor and exporter, working with thousands of smallholders. During 14 years in the USA, Tony held a variety of leadership roles at Fortune 500 organizations. He holds a degree in International Business from USIU-Africa in Nairobi and an MBA in Global Business from The Lake Forest Graduate School of Business in Chicago. Tony has dual Kenyan and American citizenship.
Paul Castle - Head of Communications
Ask us a question, and it’ll probably pass this way! Between a decade each in healthcare and agribusiness, [email protected] freelanced as a journalist and translator. 30 years after graduating in the UK, he completed a Certificate in African Studies at Basel University. He focused on radio extension for smallholders in minority languages, a topic he now pursues for the Foundation. He's also written about rural-urban migration and corporate foundations, as well as other topics on our Publications page. Paul is additionally our contact for Swiss "Zivildienst". In his spare time, he's a Trustee of the Basel Children's Cancer Foundation, a sports announcer, and advisor to a children's magazine. He has provided rowing commentary at five Olympic Games. Here are Paul's Tips for public speaking (die gibt's auch auf Deutsch). You'll find his blog from a 2018 stay in East Africa on our Kenya page.
Mamadou Cissé - Communications Manager
Mamadou joined the team in July 2018. He is in charge of website management, enhancement and expansion of the Foundation's digital presence and also raising international appreciation of the Syngenta Foundation across its key audiences. Before joining us, Mamadou worked for various NGOs and international organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva, Switzerland, and UNICEF in Kinshasa, DR Congo. Mamadou holds a Master's degree in Communications.
George Osure - Regional Director, East Africa
George, an Agricultural Engineer, began his career in the Rural Technology Development Unit of Kenya's Ministry of Agriculture. He subsequently worked for General Motors in Procurement, and then for Care International, partnering with multi-lateral organizations on the profitability and productivity of smallholder value chains. As our Program Director in Kenya since 2009, and now regionally, George builds sustainable and profitable institutions supported by credit, risk mitigation and input suppliers. These draw on facilities available in the public, private, and development sectors.
Farhad Zamil - Country Director, Bangladesh
Farhad Zamil joined the Syngenta Foundation in 2011. He had previously managed a private sector potato development program in Bangladesh for the US-based non-profit organization Action for Enterprise. Farhad has many years of experience with leading International development organizations and UN agencies. He has worked on sustainable agriculture and rural livelihoods, agri-SME development, value chain integration and private sector engagement. Farhad holds a Master’s in Horticulture from Bangladesh Agricultural University, a Master’s in Business Administration from Southeast University and a Postgraduate Diploma in International Relations from the University of Dhaka. He likes promoting new ideas and concepts, fostering creativity and innovation to change the livelihoods of farmers in developing countries.
Salif Kanté - Country Director, Mali
Salif joined the Syngenta Foundation in 2006 as the coordinator of the Capacity Building Project. He is now country director in Mali since 2018. As an agronomist, he represents the regional rice program of the foundation, responsible for managing the administrative and financial aspects of the program. Salif is co-author of 10 publications in several journals and journals.
Baskar Reddy - Country Director, India
S. Baskar Reddy has led our India team since 2013. From 2005-13, he directed the Agriculture, Food Processing and Water divisions at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. He worked closely there with the Ministry of Agriculture on policy formulation and implementation in agricultural marketing, extension, warehousing, machinery and food processing. Baskar was instrumental in India's new Public-Private Partnership for Integrated Agriculture Development. He holds a Ph.D. in Soil and Water Conservation Engineering from IARI, New Delhi. In March 2014, the Indian government nominated Baskar to its national Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture.
Teddy Tambu - Country Director, Indonesia
Teddy Tambu joined us in 2014, having most recently worked extensively on corn, rice and vegetable seeds. As well as agronomy, he has considerable experience in analysis & strategy, marketing & sales, retail, distribution, operations and business development. In his spare time, Teddy runs a "Reading Hut" to help children in a remote area of West Java enjoy books - which would otherwise be a luxury.
Alassane Aw - Country Director, Senegal
As an agronomist, Alassane holds an Engineer Diploma from the University of Thies, Senegal and a Master's Degree in Natural Resources Management form Agrhymet regional center, Niger. Particularly interested in the development of the agricultural sector Alassane has extensive experience in Research and development with institutions including AfricaRice, USAID and the Senegalese Ministry of Agriculture.
Tong Yan - Country Director, China
Yan (Tony Tong) has held a wide range of commercial, operational and strategic roles in the agricultural sector. He is the country director of our China Program. Most recently, he ran Zespri’s Chinese kiwi supply chain. Earlier positions include developing the seed treatment business for Bayer in China and for FMC across Asia. At Limagrain China, Yan led corn seed business development. Early in his private sector career, Yan also worked for Novartis and Syngenta Seeds. He holds a Horticultural Sciences degree from Beijing Agriculture College
Gabriel Isaiah - Project Coordinator, Nigeria
Isaiah Alunyo Gabriel has many years’ experience in the area of increasing crop productivity and farmers' training in different States in Nigeria. Before joining the foundation, he was the Assistant/General Farm Manager with Rayuwa Farms Limited, Senior Agronomist/Field Coordinator with Syngenta/MADE project, Agronomist with Alluvia Farm, Demand Promoter with Syngenta Nigeria Limited and was among the pioneer team that set-up Syngenta seed production in Nigeria. Prior to this time, he was a graduate student Researcher with UAM/IITA cowpea and soybeans implementation project. Isaiah holds a degree in agronomy, Master, and Ph.D. in Plant Breeding & Genetics from the University of Agriculture Makurdi, Benue State, Nigeria.
Dao Xuan Cuong - Technical Advisor, Vietnam
Dao Xuan Cuong worked for over 20 years at Syngenta and its predecessor companies before joining SFSA in 2010. His professional activities focused on R&D for insect, disease and weed control, and more recently on integrated crop solutions in main crops rice, corn and vegetable. For SFSA, Cuong advises on seed system development and agronomy for Asian crops. He holds a PhD in plant protection from the Vietnamese Academy of Agricultural Science (VAAS).
Youssou Diagne - Senior Advisor, West Africa
Youssou was the former country director in Senegal from 2014 until 2020. Youssou was responsible for the coordination and development of our rice projects there and in Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Mali. An agronomist, he holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Dijon. Youssou has extensive experience in developing agricultural value chains with institutions including USAID, FAO and the Senegalese Ministry of Agriculture.
Oumar Niangado - Senior Advisor, West Africa
Oumar Niangado is a former Director of Mali's Cinzana Research Station and then Director General of the Mali Institute of Rural Economy. He has been a member of CIRAD's scientific commission and of what is now the Science Council of the CGIAR, as well as numerous other scientific institutions. He currently sits on the Montpellier Panel and the Scientific and Technical Committee of CERAAS. Oumar holds a PhD in Agricultural Science from Paris-Sud University, France. Oumar has retired from the Foundation, but continues to provide advisory expertise. As of 2019, he has been appointed Chairman of Ségou University.