People behind SAFOSO: Manon Schuppers

August 23, 2021

Who are the people behind SAFOSO? What inspires them and how do they contribute to solving animal health challenges? Manon Schuppers shares her story.

How do you contribute to SAFOSO? Describe your role at SAFOSO.

I am Co-CEO, together with my colleague Patrik Buholzer. In addition to general management tasks such as strategy development and human resources, I focus the majority of my time on project acquisition and overall project oversight. That involves a lot of contact with our current and potential clients, as well as a lot of brainstorming of how we can serve our clients best.  

What are you currently working on?

In our project in Ukraine, I am helping the local authorities in developing their capacities to use risk assessment and risk-based management approaches for animal health and food safety issues. Finally, I am leading a large evaluation study in which we are trying to identify how an organization can be further developed. In addition to ongoing projects, there are always one or more projects in acquisition on my desk. Acquisition involves developing project proposals, calculating budgets and of course writing the proposals.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges in animal health?

I believe a major challenge now and in the future is to improve animal health while taking into consideration a wide range of other important interests. We explore solutions to complex questions such as, how can we protect livestock from pathogens while also providing more outdoor access for welfare reasons? How can we reduce the risk of spreading disease while at the same time increasing global trade in animal-based commodities? How can we reduce problems with antimicrobial resistance while at the same time increasing livestock production to satisfy the increasing demand for animal products? I believe that we need to increasingly look at animal health in a cross-disciplinary manner to address these challenges.  

What inspires you to come to work every day?

I am very passionate about contributing to providing people around the world with safe food that was produced in a sustainable manner. Of course, only little steps toward this goal are taken at a time, but many little steps will ultimately make one big step.  

What skills are critical for success in your role?

My work involves a lot of direct communication with people, so being able to listen and to find out where the true problem lies is very important. A combination of flexibility, creativity and pragmatism is important: every client deserves the optimal solution for his or her problem, which is not always identical to the perfect solution in an ideal situation. And finally, the ability to communicate in a way that is suitable for the target audience is critical. With a minister of agriculture, for example, I need to communicate differently than with a farm veterinarian.  

What has been a highlight in your work for SAFOSO?

Over the years there have been many highlights in my work, but one in particular still stands out. After a couple of trainings during which we prepared a national FMD control strategy, a participant approached me and told me that now he finally understood why all these preparatory steps for the strategy were important and that he now realized that FMD was truly a problem in his country. He no longer went through the steps because they were part of the workshop program, but because he recognized their importance for the development of his country. That is an example of one of those little steps that can contribute to a big step that I value a great deal.  

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