Hello. My name is Norma Rachaunda Toussaint, and I am currently enrolled in the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems graduate certificate program at Tufts University.
Currently residing in Washington, D.C., I am a certified project manager with over 10 years of experience providing project oversight for US Government-supported projects in both not-for-profit and for-profit global environments. I recently joined Mercy Corps as a Senior Advisor, for Food Security and Learning, leading learning on sustainability and multi-sector integration on the IDEAL project. Prior to joining Mercy Corps, I was a Senior Program Manager at Counterpart International (CPI) and led the food security portfolio, managing USDA and USAID projects based in Senegal and Mauritania.
As someone whose parents immigrated from Haiti and worked hard to make a better life in America, an understanding of the hardships impoverished people face was instilled in me at a young age.
As someone whose parents immigrated from Haiti and worked hard to make a better life in America, an understanding of the hardships impoverished people face was instilled in me at a young age. This unique insight has allowed me to develop and manage projects addressing those issues more effectively. Every project is personal to me, and I truly believe that we already have the tools and resources necessary to end global hunger sustainably and without causing irreparable damage to the planet.
Since working from home for the past year and a half, I have cooked and baked a lot more, particularly Caribbean dishes. The book “Food in Cuba: The Pursuit of a Decent Meal” by Dr. Hanna Garth spurred my own thinking of what a decent meal looks like for me. Recreating a Haitian meal for my own family, as my mom did for me growing up, has increased in importance for me, especially since my dad passed away last summer. One of my dad’s favorite meals was diri blan ak sauce pwa kongo (white rice and pigeon pea sauce), a meal my mom would cook for special occasions. We grew pigeon peas in our home garden, and I have vivid memories of my mom picking the peas, cleaning them, and boiling them for what seemed like forever. If there is any bright side to this prolonged pandemic, it is me having the time to learn about different spices, preparation methods and the history behind different ethnic dishes. Though my comfort zone is Caribbean culinary, I have ventured off to cooking African foods, particularly Senegalese, one of my favorite countries.
Our ability to be educated diminishes when our stomachs are empty.
In closing, as a Senegalese proverb states, “when you are hungry, you do not have ears.” Our ability to be educated diminishes when our stomachs are empty. Through my certificate program, I’m thinking and writing more critically about sustainability. Once I complete the coursework in December 2021, I hope to be in a better position to contribute sustainable solutions to our agri-food system.