Silvana Veltkamp Co-founder
It could be said that without Silvana AFPF, URDT and ARU may not have ever been created. Silvana was a co-founder of AFPF in 1981 and served as the organization's first Executive Director from 1981-1997. She was the first Secretary of the Board of URDT and authored the organizations working documents. She is credited as a co-founder of URDT and ARU. Silvana previously had worked at the Food and Agriculture Organization at the UN. She officially retired from her work in 2007 to return to Italy.
Silvana Veltkamp is currently the only living co-founder of both AFPF and URDT. We are indebted to Silvana for her devotion to serving strong partnerships in international development. Words from the AFPF's first mission statement remind us of her intent. It said, “Our mission is to serve the expression of partnership which bonds all peoples of the world.”
Silvana grew up in Italy, visited Somalia as a youth, and fell in love with her African brothers and sisters. Before she left Somalia, she put a handful of red dirt in her pocket and swore that she would come back someday. After many years of creating a family and career, including at the UNDP, she turned again to Africa. She had seen that a missing link in development was an education for the local people doing their own development.
Silvana was living in the U.S. when she began partnering with Ugandan development professionals. Here, she encountered Robert Fritz’s work in structural dynamics and the creative process. She was inspired when she realized that this kind of education would be valuable to Ugandans in rural settings. She asked RF to be on the board of advisors of AFPF. Recently he told us that mostly he said NO to people asking for this kind of support, but with Silvana, he saw something special, and he said YES.
Silvana held a conference on ending hunger, run by the Hunger Project. She invited
others to take Robert Fritz’s course in her home. It was a 5-week course.
It was the 1980’s and Silvana was spending much of her time in Uganda. The country was
recovering from the brutal dictatorship of Idi Amin. Milton Obote ruled the country after Amin had left, and still, things were violent and scary. However, the stories we heard from Silvana were about rural villagers finally being able to feed their families more than one meal of cassava a day, planting tomatoes and spinach and beans, creating fish farms for protein, and protecting springs for clean water.
Silvana’s first partnership with a Ugandan development leader had its trials and ended after a few years. In 1987, Mwalimu Musheshe emerged as the leader for Silvana to partner with – and URDT was founded.
In the early days, Silvana brought Ugandan leaders here to the US for training with Robert Fritz, Peter Senge, and others, and for fund-raising purposes.