The Team

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Leesa Shrader

Program Director

Leesa is Program Director of the AgriFin Accelerate Program at Mercy Corps, which is a 6-year, $24 million program funded by the MasterCard Foundation to expand smallholder farmer access to technology-enabled financial and information services in East Africa. Ms. Shrader joins AgriFin from CGAP, where she served as the Senior Digital Financial Services Expert for Asia. She has over 20 years global experience working in financial inclusion with leading banks, mobile network operators and institutions such as CGAP, the World Bank, GiZ, KfW and Women’s World Banking. She has significant expertise in digital financial inclusion, as well as agricultural finance, wholesale and retail microbanking, market research and product development, ratings and technical assistance. With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ms. Shrader worked to build innovative commercial banking technology platforms utilizing branchless and mobile phone channels to serve low income markets in Indonesia and the Philippines. She has worked on mobile and development deployments in 16 countries around the world, including Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia. Ms. Shrader holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University and is based in Nairobi with her family, leading programming across Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia.

Andrew Karlyn

Director for Strategy and Learning

Andrew Karlyn, PhD, joins the AgriFin Accelerate project as Director for Strategy and Learning.  Andrew most recently served as USAID’s Global Development Lab’s Africa Regional Advisor, based in Nairobi, supporting digital finance initiatives in health, social protection, agriculture and democracy and governance programs.

Andrew is trained as an anthropologist, demographer, and behavioral scientist.  He was a principal contributor to Population Council’s mHealth initiatives spanning over 30 projects in the HIV prevention and treatment, maternal and newborn health, and poverty, gender and youth interventions.  Andrew has designed and deployed mobile technology across Africa, including the delivery of pre- and post-test HIV counseling, job-aids and task-shifting tools, remote sampling and data collection techniques; and, point-of-service/care tools.  

Andrew served as Country Director for Population Council Nigeria and Chief of Party on a large PEPFAR grant to address social determinants of HIV risk in northern Nigeria.  Prior to, Andrew was lead behavioral scientist on the Truvada PrEP clinical trial at CDC Botswana.  

Andrew has worked in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia for more than 18 years, providing technical assistance to conduct research, policy analysis, advocacy development, program design, monitoring and evaluation systems, and evaluations for a variety of clients, including community-based organizations, host governments, multi- and bi-lateral international donors, national and international NGOs, and UN agencies. Andrew has extensive experience working in conflict and post-conflict settings to deliver emergency aid and health care, conducting epidemiological surveillance and social appraisals, and facilitating the transition to sustainable development.

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Christabell Makokha

Country Director

Christabell Makokha is the Country Director for Mercy Corps’ AgriFin Accelerate (AFA) program in Zambia. She has experience in strategy advisory and consulting having worked with clients in the private sector as well as in development; previous clients have included government and educational institutions, multi-lateral donors, pharmaceutical companies, and investors in the Agriculture, Global Health, and Financial Inclusion sectors. She has vast experience in performing market research and analytics to inform strategy, product development, and impact evaluation. At the launch of AFA, Christabell worked with the program to explore opportunities for enhancing access to finance for smallholder farmers using digital platforms in Kenya and now in Zambia. Similarly, Christabell worked with Financial Sector Deepening Kenya (FSDK) to prepare a strategy around agricultural finance, based on FSDK’s capabilities, and aligned to their vision. With an extensive understanding of financial and non-financial needs of smallholder farmers and potential models to address these issues, Christabell will be leading the overall implementation of the AFA program in Zambia, including establishing the Zambia office, developing, and leading partner engagements. Christabell holds AB and BE degrees in Biomedical Engineering from Dartmouth College, US.

Paul Kweheria

Country Director

Paul Kweheria is the Country Director for Mercy Corps’ AgriFin Accelerate (AFA) program in Tanzania. Paul brings in banking experience into AgriFin from KCB Bank where he worked for 12 and half years in various capacities. Paul’s range of experience is in strategic planning, development and monitoring, Ideation, Product Development and Commercialization, Agriculture Finance, Risk management and Governance, Project Management, Systems Implementation and Administration. As a Senior Strategy Manager at KCB, Paul was responsible for development and monitoring of KCB Group interests in Commercial and Retail Banking, Banc assurance, Investment Banking and KCB Foundation in six countries. Paul co-developed an innovative agriculture finance program delivered on mobile technology; where he led the research, ideation, concept and product development, business case development, vendor and partner engagement, field implementation and a successful fund raising of over US$ 16 million. Previously, he also championed an innovative digital bill payments and financing product and managed certification program for credit and debit card business.
Paul holds an MBA from Strathmore Business School, BSC in Computer Science from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), a Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) and completed his Certified Public Accountancy (CPA – Kenya).

Collins Marita

Monitoring Evaluation and Learning Manager

Collins brings more than ten years of experience in research and project management, and, in addition to a specialty in agricultural sector-related research projects, he has also worked in the health and ICT sectors. His expertise spans over ten countries in Africa and Asia in both qualitative and quantitative research, including designing and implementing studies, as well as program monitoring and evaluation. Prior to joining AFA, Collins managed the Financial Inclusion Insights (FII) research program for Kenya, with an additional focus on the agricultural value chain in all eight FII countries in Intermedia Survey Institute. The FII program, conducted on behalf of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to fill knowledge gaps for financial inclusion stakeholders by providing fundamental data about trends in access and use of digital financial services through rigorous, nationally representative surveys and targeted qualitative research studies. While there he was also part of the team coordinating research on smallholder farmer households’ use of digital financial services supported by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP).

Collins has worked in the private sector research community as a research manager, and, in the NGO sector, as a monitoring and evaluation officer for 2SCALE, a project focused on improving farmer livelihoods through the formation of agribusiness clusters. He also worked at the International Livestock Research Institute, under the Livelihoods, Gender and Impact program, as an impact assessment consultant in Nairobi and Addis Ababa.

Collins holds a Master of Science degree in Research Methods from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Nairobi and has a diploma in Business Management from the Kenya Institute of Management.

Happy Mathew

Senior Program Officer at Mercy Corps AFA Program in Tanzania

Happy has over 5 years of experience in banking industry where she has held various positions ranging from ICT based roles to Project management role. More than half of the 5 years she spent in ICT carrying out end user support, systems training, database administrations and core banking systems maintenance and support. While at ICT she received an award of the best ICT support staff of the year and managed to grow from an officer to the middle manager levels of the bank. There after she joined project management where she has successfully delivered various strategic projects such as core banking system re-implementation, digital banking solutions such as mobile banking, internet banking and virtual solar loans for Tanzanians in the rural areas where the national grid has not reached. In her previous role she was working with a Tanzanian bank inclined towards serving the lower pyramid of the society as a project manager, she coordinated and managed projects that cut across ICT related projects and banking products. During her time with the bank she managed projects that facilitated the bank to provide super-agent services to the individual mobile money agents, coordinated field research on agency banking and digitization of the insurance services offered by the bank through smart policy systems and many other strategic projects. Her strong attitude and commitment to delivery has made her rise to various levels and demonstrate tremendous success at them.

Happy is a Computer science degree holder with PRINCE2 certification for project management and currently pursuing PMP (Project Management Professional) Certification to cement her projects management knowledge..