Digital relationships have the power to create long-lasting change. That’s the core idea behind Partners in Food Solutions (PFS), a nonprofit founded in 2011 that seeks to connect American professionals in the agriculture industry with entrepreneurs in Africa looking for business advice. David Dayhoff ’94, the vice president of the nonprofit, has been tasked with overseeing these relationships, the majority of which are formed through online communication.
Dayhoff believes this is a particularly important time to get involved in philanthropy in Africa. “Africa has been for a long time a chronically food insecure place, which is paradoxical because in fact it has a lot more productive capacity. It has the natural resources as well as the human capital base to be a big net exporter of agricultural goods, rather than an importer,” he said.
“We’re just one part of the puzzle that’s needed to make Africa turn around from being a lagging region to a leading region in terms of agriculture and food production,” Dayhoff said. “In our small way, we’re trying to make that happen faster.”
For Dayhoff, the role of making international connections has been a long-term dream.
“I knew even at Princeton that I wanted to do something international,” Dayhoff recalled. “I thought I was probably going to go into a Foreign Service or State Department career, and I worked in the U.S. Senate for a couple years after Princeton.”
It was through his experiences working for former Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, who served as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, that Dayhoff became exposed to the world of agriculture. When he moved to the private sector, his primary interests were agriculture and trade — “two of the things that make the world go ’round,” Dayhoff said.
Dayhoff worked at Cargill, a major agricultural company, for 15 years following his work in the Senate. While working in a corporate environment, Dayhoff began to yearn for more philanthropic experiences.
That’s when Dayhoff was introduced to PFS, which recruits employees from Cargill and five other agriculture companies as volunteers. After leaving Cargill and running a nonprofit called Hunger-Free Minnesota, Dayhoff was offered the VP role at PFS.
Dayhoff believes his experiences in the corporate and nonprofit worlds have provided him with the necessary perspectives for his role. “I learned how to work and speak corporate, but I still have this long-abiding interest in trying to do something more civic or philanthropic,” Dayhoff said. “PFS is a really good great blend of those worlds, and part of our job is harnessing the value and interests of these corporate employees who want to do good.”
Dayhoff said recent technological advances have allowed for more meaningful online connections to be made across borders. “If it were even 10 years ago or more,” he said, “the communications technology would not have been good enough for us to communicate properly with our clients and get work done.”