Pascaline Ntangyungwi sorts through her beans
She had little left to lose. Most years, smallholder farmer Pascaline Ntangyungwi would only harvest marginally more than the amount of seed she planted. Without any other income source, she found her poor harvests not only translated into hunger, but a failure to provide the education she had envisioned for her seven children.
“For years we couldn’t even harvest enough to last one month because we didn’t know how to plant well,” Pascaline says. “It was also so difficult to get fertilizer. We’d travel far to buy it, and often the shops would run out… If I got to the shop and there wasn’t any fertilizer left, I would plant without it because I couldn’t afford to wait.”
Pascaline recounts walking two hours, mostly on mountainous footpaths, to the nearest shop in the Burundian countryside where she might be able to buy fertilizer, and then often leaving empty-handed with a heavy heart knowing her harvests would suffer. She would then plant by scattering her seeds at random and hope somehow she might harvest more than the year before.
Then, four years ago, she heard news that promised to change her agricultural practices and possibly more. Her neighbors told her about a new company that had arrived in Burundi and was coming to their village. Pascaline took note because she heard the business would deliver fertilizer near her house and provide trainings on how to use it. After attending a meeting, Pascaline enrolled with One Acre Fund.
That year, Pascaline bought fertilizer on credit, which she was able to pick up just a 15-minute walk from her front door. She also took time to measure the spacing between her rows, between each seed as she planted, and the amount of fertilizer she used. Though the process overall was a bit more time-consuming upfront, Pascaline says it paid off.
In 2012 she harvested, 880 pounds of beans—more than double any other harvest she had ever produced on her land.
“I felt so happy about having food for my family,” she says. For the next few years, Pascaline continued to harvest well and started to dream.
Now, Pascaline is a proud mother. At 54, her oldest children are in their early 20’s and 30’s and her youngest are approaching high school. She and her husband never continued their education past elementary school, and she had always wanted better for her children.
Each year, Pascaline would save a portion of her harvest for food, and then sell some to support her older children in pursuing advanced educations. In 2015, she even chose to invest in more land so she could increase her revenue further.
“I bought the land with one intention: to increase my production,” Pascaline says.
Pascaline's son Yves attends university in the country's capital, Bujumbura
Today, two of Pascaline’s sons are in university in the country’s capital, Bujumbura. Norbet, 25 years old, is training to be a civil engineer, and Yves, 21, is studying math. Her younger children also now grow up with the expectation that they too will go to college. This is something Pascaline feels especially proud of.
“It would not have been possible for my children to attend university before because we had poverty,” she says. “Now we have so much, and I have pride.”
Aug 08, 2016
In any given week, One Acre Fund’s recruitment team reviews anywhere between 500 and 1,000 job applications. We are very lucky to receive many strong applications from development professionals from all over the world, and we carefully read through every single one of them.
To keep things moving, our team must often make decisions about job applications in a relatively short period of time. We’ve developed a thorough system to ensure we make the best decisions possible. However, there are some things job applicants can do to help us make positive decisions on their applications.
In this piece, we share some of the most essential things you can do to increase your chances of getting an interview for a role with One Acre Fund. It builds on important information outlined in the previous articles in our recruitment series, including What You Need To Know Before Applying To One Acre Fund and 3 Ways To Connect With The One Acre Fund Recruitment Team.
1. Understand The Role
We encourage candidates to read the job description of a given role thoroughly, and think about how their skills would fit with the responsibilities they’d quickly take on. When we see a mismatch between a candidate’s experience and the role they’ve applied for, it raises a red flag. When a candidate can point to the skills and professional experiences that make them great for the role they’ve applied for, this greatly increases the odds that their application will move forward. For example, a strong candidate for the Human Resources Lead role would not only demonstrate that they have the necessary HR background; they would also show how their past experiences have prepared them for key responsibilities of the role such as department management, HR competency management, and reporting.
2. Do The Research
In addition to demonstrating a clear understanding about the role they’re applying for, strong candidates also make it a point to be knowledgeable about One Acre Fund’s unique approach to development. They'll know One Acre Fund’s history, mission, core values, and model, and clearly demonstrate this knowledge in their cover letter, and by asking thoughtful questions during any interviews. One Acre Fund’s blog, Insights Library, and website are all great places to learn more about our work. Exceptional candidates take a step further, even reaching out to current One Acre Fund staffers via LinkedIn to learn more about us. This kind of initiative goes a long way in preparing candidates for a successful interview process.
3. Keep Your CV Short And To-The-Point
Very often, candidates demonstrate strong work experience on their CV, but fail to give details about their specific responsibilities. Other candidates present extremely long CVs in a format that’s difficult to digest. There are many recommendations for how to write a strong CV, but below we’ve listed a few best practices we recommend following:
Keep your CV to one to two pages long. Include your address, previous roles held (including location), major skills, educational information, and any special accreditations and awards.
When listing roles, begin with your current role and list previous ones chronologically.
Under each role, include a maximum of two to three bullets on major responsibilities and – even more importantly – the key accomplishments you achieved.
Where relevant, use clear metrics to quantify accomplishments in your previous roles (e.g. “I brought in 18 new clients over 12 months, surpassing my target of 10 new clients,” or “I secured a $3 million grant to fund our new initiative.”)
4. Make Your Cover Letter Compelling And Creative
We are passionate about serving farmers, and we want to hire talented people who share our passion! The cover letter (or statement of interest) is your opportunity to make a case for why you should receive an interview with us. Strong candidates use the cover letter to show that they share our passion for putting Farmers First, and to illustrate exactly how their skills and experiences are a match for the specific role they are applying for. Don’t fall into the trap of “wasting” your cover letter by repeating information that recruiters can easily deduce from your CV. Instead, use it as an opportunity to creatively communicate how you can add real value for the farmers we serve.
5. Remember, It's All In The Details!
We are fortunate enough to receive a ton of great candidates each week, so the odds are stacked against any application that has glaring errors. Before submitting your application, do a thorough check to make sure that you do not have any basic grammar or typographical errors. Excellent written communication and attention to detail are both critical skills for many of our positions, so we want to see that candidates took the time to review their work and submit solid, polished application materials.
Incorporating these five tips into your application will substantially increase your chances of making it past our CV review. However, it’s possible for you to check all the boxes and still not receive an invitation to interview. Don’t be discouraged! Often, it’s because we don’t feel your skills are the strongest match for an open role at the time, and we want you to pursue more relevant experience before you can join us. We advise declined candidates to wait at least 1.5 to 3 years before reapplying, as that is reasonably how long it takes to muster additional experience.
Inspired to put together a stellar application for a position with us? Check out our latest career opportunities.
And if you're a recruiter looking to learn more about the One Acre Fund interview process, check out this post: Top 3 Tips for Hiring Mangers in Social Enterprises.