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WFP SBP Stories: Francia Villavicencio, Agriculture Engineer in Ethiopia

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

The Somali Region is a predominantly arid part of eastern Ethiopia mainly inhabited by pastoralists. During the year, there is virtually no rainfall. Located within 30 kilometers of the Ethiopia-Somalia border, Dollo Addo is a woreda (district) with unique challenges due to its poor infrastructure and basic services.

In 2021 Francia Villavicencio, a seasoned Filipino Agriculture Engineer, was deployed by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) to the WFP sub-office in Dollo Ado, for an 18-month mission. She was tasked with supporting a livelihood programme by ensuring that asset creation activities adhered to corporate engineering standards. Below is an account of her Standby experience with WFP.

Francia, Agriculture Engineer deployed to Dollo Addo, in eastern Ethiopia @ WFP
Francia overseeing an irrigation canal @ WFP

Despite the harsh desert climate and lack of rainfall, Francia was determined to make a positive impact on the lives of vulnerable populations in Dollo Addo. Irrigation agriculture was introduced in the woreda in the late 1970s and, in 2021, WFP was implementing a Sustainable Livelihood Promotion Programme for Refugees and the Host Community, which aimed to provide agriculture and market support to vulnerable populations.

As a dedicated Agriculture Engineer, Francia was driven by the desire to contribute to Ethiopia's resilience and combat food insecurity. She recognized the importance of her role in supporting the ongoing livelihood programme by overseeing the creation of household and community productive assets (e.g. irrigation canals).

Francia's expertise and technical support were particularly crucial in fulfilling the programme's objectives. With her knowledge and experience, she addressed the engineering challenges associated with large-scale and complex asset creation activities. Her role involved overseeing projects that faced delays and technical obstacles, providing guidance and solutions to cooperating partners. Francia's presence was instrumental in ensuring the timely completion of activities and maintaining the required engineering standards.

Furthermore, Francia played a vital role in capacity strengthening efforts. She actively engaged with national staff and government line ministries, sharing her knowledge and expertise to facilitate the smooth transition of project implementation responsibilities. By equipping local counterparts with the necessary skills, Francia contributed to sustainable development and the eventual handover of projects to the government.

Francia discussing with workers on a agriculture site @ WFP

Francia's exemplary performance and contributions did not go unnoticed. She became a respected figure among her colleagues, especially as one of the few women in such a role in a field dominated by men. The Office's senior management and teams commended her dedication and the impact she made during her mission. “Francia is a gem, always willing to go the extra mile”, stated Andrew Odero, Head of the Somali Area Office, as he recalled an instance when Francia delivered a successful fundraising document overnight.

By the end of her assignment, Francia's performance was recognized, and she was recruited into a full-time position with WFP. Her commitment to the mission's objectives, her ability to overcome challenges, and her technical expertise had made a lasting impression on the organization and in the district.

Francia discussing with community members @ WFP

Reflecting on her experience, Francia expressed her gratitude and passion for her work, stating, "I am honored to be part of WFP's efforts in strengthening livelihoods and ensuring equal opportunities for all. Moreover, being able to contribute to gender equality and empower communities through sustainable projects has been incredibly fulfilling."

Francia's story stands as an inspiring example of how dedicated individuals can create significant change, even in challenging environments. Her journey with WFP serves as a testament to the organization's commitment to improving lives and building a prosperous and sustainable future for vulnerable populations in Ethiopia.

Francia supervising work progress in Dollo Addo @ WFP

Since 1991 the World Food Programme (WFP) collaborates with a vast network of Standby Partners consisting of public and private organizations complementing WFP’s operational capacity by providing staffing, equipment, and services. Standby Partnerships are activated in various job positions and provide crucial support to WFP operations in emergencies or when WFP needs specific technical expertise. In 2022, 205 experts supported 45 Country Offices, 4 Regional Bureaux, and Headquarters. To request and deploy experts Standby Partners please reach out to WFP Standby Partnerships team in the Emergency Operations Division at:

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