Clemence Murekatete is known within WFP Rwanda as Mama Linda — after her first born child. She has been working with the organization for 23 years. To Clemence WFP is more than a good employer, it’s her family and a place where she keeps learning thanks to the cultural diversity of her colleagues and the challenges posed by WFP’s work.
A chance encounter that changed her life
Clemence is a Rwandan national born in Burundi, where her parents had lived as refugees for over 30 years.
“My dream was to become an accountant and work for a financial institution or a travel agency,” she says. Though her parents had returned to Rwanda in 1995 after the Genocide, she had no plans to move to Rwanda herself because the situation in the country was not stable yet.
However, Clemence’s dream changed when she met someone from WFP on a flight from Bujumbura to Kigali. “I was told there was an opportunity to work with WFP as a store keeper. I applied, got selected for the next round, passed the interview and started the job in 1996. Thanks to WFP, I came home and joined my parents.”
In the past 23 years, Clemence’s career has evolved through various contract forms and positions, from service contract to fixed term, and from young, well-performing store keeper to a respected and experienced female warehouse manager.
“Warehouse management is the job I love most. I take pride in maintaining our warehouse, and the food stored inside, following corporate food safety and quality standards to help save people’s lives. The warehouse feels like my own house.”
What does it take to be a warehouse manager?
Glancing over to the warehouse, you can spot Clemence from afar. A tall lady, she confidently oversees several men in uniform tirelessly loading or offloading trucks.
“Warehouse management is more than simply storing food. It involves hard work, trust, and most of all good time management. You have to make sure the food is well stored and dispatched on time. Besides this, you must really love your job” says Clemence.
Back in 1996, when Clemence started her career at WFP, the agency’s daily tasks in Rwanda were many. Over 600 metric tonnes of food was received and dispatched every day by more than 100 trucks, reaching millions of internally displaced people including Rwandan refugees returning home. There was also the distribution of food to beneficiaries for asset creation, as well as road rehabilitation and reaching out to save the lives of orphans and children.
“WFP contributed greatly to the rehabilitation of livelihoods and improved food security in Rwanda,” says Clemence.
Today, despite WFP’s recent switch to cash-based transfers and increased use of technology to respond to food and nutritional needs of beneficiaries, warehouse management skills are still very much needed.
“Good warehouse management skills are crucial, not only to efficiently serve our beneficiaries directly but also for the retailers with whom we work and who sell food to refugees. Our role has evolved and now comprises the transfer of skills to partners including retailers, as well as small-holder farmers who are struggling to reduce post-harvest loss through best practices in food storage”.
Continuously learning and training is a tradition within WFP and Clemence has done her share in upholding this. She was one of the first staff in WFP trained in the new commodity management system (LESS), which she later taught to other people in various WFP offices around the world, including Senegal and Mauritania. Furthermore, Clemence served and supported various emergencies, including the 2017 emergency in Malawi and in Ethiopia.
“Serving in humanitarian emergencies has helped me to remain focused on my job,” she says.
Aligning to WFP innovations in Rwanda
WFP’s role in Rwanda is progressively shifting from being a direct implementer of food assistance, to building national capacity to formulate, manage and implement programmes for achieving zero hunger. The WFP warehouse in Kigali also serves as one of the main hubs for the Global Commodity Management Facility (GCMF) in East Africa.
This forward purchasing facility enables country offices in the region to shorten the lead times and make sure that the right quantities of food are procured at the right time. Rwanda is a source of quality beans, maize and high quality fortified nutritious food that is locally produced or manufactured by WFP supported smallholder farmers and Africa Improved Foods (AIF), a public private enterprise. For these reasons, the Kigali warehouse is a strategically important center.
As WFP adopts innovations, Clemence wants to keep learning and contributing to WFP’s mandate of saving lives and changing lives.