Technical Advisor – Agricultural Development - US-based (218315-927)

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Mercy Corps
Portland, Oregon, United States
Apply by 3 February 2013
Full-time staff position
Posted on 4 January 2013

Job Description

Job Description


Mercy Corps exists to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by building secure, productive and just communities. The Technical Support Unit (TSU) provides specialized technical support to design and execute effective programs and secure the funding for future work. The TSU enhances the quality and impact of Mercy Corps’ programs from assessment and program development through implementation, results measurement and learning. More specifically, the TSU 1) provides technically sound and timely support for high quality new program development; 2) helps enhance quality programming and meaningful impact/results, and 3) promotes Mercy Corps’ best practices internally and enhances its reputation among peers, donors and partners. Within the TSU, the Food, Health and Nutrition Unit works to strengthen the agency’s work in the areas of food security and resilience, with a team of technical experts in the areas of public health, nutrition, agricultural development and logistics.


The Technical Advisor for Agricultural Development will work with country teams, government and private sector partners and other members of the TSU to design and support high impact programming. Mercy Corps is implementing more than 60 agricultural development programs with a total program value of $250 million in over 20 countries, with many of those projects forming part of broader multi-sectoral approaches. Mercy Corps’ agricultural development programs aim to both increase income among vulnerable small-holder farmers and improve consumption on the household level. The Advisor will help drive innovation in our market-driven, community-led approaches, promoting linkages with nutrition, natural resource management, economic development, micro-finance and governance. While the Advisor may have a specific technical specialty within agriculture, s/he will be able to draw upon partners, networks, consultants and Mercy Corps’ own community of practice to facilitate the adoption of best practices in areas including pastoralism, staple crop production, diversified production, conservation agriculture and livestock/fisheries, as needed and requested by the field. S/he will understand the importance of evidence-based programming and will contribute to a culture of learning at Mercy Corps.


Program Development

  • Write/review proposals and concept notes for funding from donors including foundations and US, European and UN agencies.
  • Perform assessments and gather/analyze data to determine community needs and priorities and Mercy Corps’ competitive advantage for funding.
  • Work with programs, country/regional teams and technical support units on prepositioning and development of strategies.
  • Work with other TSU members on the design and support of multi-sectoral programs that encompass agricultural development as one element of larger food security, economic development and resilience goals.
  • Be familiar with strategies on fostering agricultural development (such as Feed the Future) being developed or applied by significant governmental, academic and non-profit groups. Work with Mercy Corps to determine how the agency can best work with and/or influence such materials.
  • Foster strong linkages between agriculture and nutrition in programs.
  • Ensure that programs apply good environmental practices and improve, rather than harm, natural resources.
  • Apply appropriate economic strategies (such as value chains and the market systems approach) to identify opportunities to increase efficiency, boost small-holder incomes and facilitate sustainability of programs. Work to ensure that market opportunities reach the most vulnerable.
  • Support agricultural elements of programs providing food, cash or voucher transfers, as needed.
  • Ensure incorporation of gender considerations in agricultural programming, in accordance with Mercy Corps’ gender policy.

Program Quality

  • Work cooperatively with other technical advisors providing support to agricultural programming, including staff on the Economic and Market Development team and Social Innovations, to determine best practices and strategic approaches to improved agricultural outcomes. Be an active member of Mercy Corps’ Agricultural Working Group.
  • Conduct field visits to train and learn from field staff, share best practices and evaluate the extent to which such practices are being applied.
  • Work with field staff to ensure program targets are met and reported.
  • Help build and maintain Mercy Corps’ Community of Practice in agriculture.
  • Build capacity with Mercy Corps staff to better design and implement agriculture-related programs.
  • Identify/create and disseminate tools for improved agricultural productivity and natural resource management.
  • Work with country teams to assist communities in adjusting to the effects of climate change.
  • Help ensure Mercy Corps’ agricultural work improves production and consumption among smallholder farmers.
  • Contribute to agricultural elements of Mercy Corps’ emergency response, as needed.

Representation and Outreach

  • Coordinate closely with the Senior Agricultural Specialist in the Technical and Operational Performance Support (TOPS) Program, a USAID/Food for Peace-funded Leader with Associates led by Save the Children in which Mercy Corps provides facilitation of agriculture and Natural Resource Management.
  • Represent Mercy Corps at meetings and forums - contribute to thought leadership in agricultural development.
  • Build and maintain relationships with donor representatives.
  • Identify and nurture strategic partnerships with other organizations and institutions.
  • Contribute to a strong and regularly updated network of technical experts and consultants that can serve as an additional resource to be deployed for program support.

Learning and Impact

  • Support the field in ensuring that monitoring and evaluation reflects best practices.
  • Work in tandem with the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) team to ensure that recommended indicators are relevant and accessible to our field programs. Provide input to the Mission Metrics project.
  • Nurture partnerships with universities and research institutions to draw upon such partnerships for case studies, assessments and other learning documentation.
  • Promote and assist in documentation and dissemination of Mercy Corps agricultural interventions and lessons learned, as well as cross-visits that contribute to organizational capacity-building.
  • Contribute to agency-wide initiatives such as the research agenda around resilience.
  • Support the field in creating learning documents, evidence-based research, and impact studies that demonstrate the extent to which our programming is improving the lives of our beneficiaries.
  • Other duties as required.

Accountability to Beneficiaries: Mercy Corps team members are expected to support all efforts towards accountability, specifically to our beneficiaries and to international standards guiding international relief and development work while actively engaging beneficiary communities as equal partners in the design, monitoring and evaluation of our field projects.

Organizational Learning: As part of our commitment to organizational learning and in support of our understanding that learning organizations are more effective, efficient and relevant to the communities they serve - we expect all team members to commit 5% of their time to learning activities that benefit Mercy Corps as well as themselves.


Reports Directly to: Food, Health and Nutrition Director

Works Directly with: Country Directors, field-based Program managers, Program Operations, members of the Food, Health and Nutrition Unit, Economic and Market Development, Social Innovations and other technical support teams.

Supervises: Consultants, interns


  • Master’s degree preferred in area relevant to international development, with a strong preference for agriculture-related degree.
  • At least 5 years’ experience with agricultural development, in particular production and natural resource management, with at least three of those years overseas.
  • Demonstrated experience in building capacity among vulnerable farmers/ pastoralists and improving productivity. Able to provide feedback/ training to field staff on challenges related to productivity of crops and/or livestock, or connect such staff with appropriate technical support.
  • Experience working in transitional environments, addressing root causes of hunger and poverty and building resilience even in areas that are prone to frequent shocks.
  • Familiarity with innovative practices in agriculture, which may include value chain development, linking nutrition and agriculture, conservation agriculture, social and behavioral change and/or the market systems approach.
  • Strong writing ability, with experience in writing assessments, concept notes, proposals and reports.
  • Familiarity with major donors such as USAID/Food for Peace, USDA, DFID, the EC and the Gates Foundation.
  • Familiarity with programs employing food, cash or voucher transfers preferred.
  • Experience building solid working relationships with the government, other INGOs and local NGOs.
  • Familiarity with professional standards for monitoring and evaluation, case studies and surveys. Able to connect field staff with appropriate tools for designing, implementing and measuring agricultural development work.
  • Proven success working on matrixed teams and in non-hierarchical settings.
  • Proven success working with staff with diverse backgrounds.
  • French and/or Spanish language proficiency preferred.


The successful Technical Advisor in Agricultural Development will combine technical skills in agriculture with flexibility, creativity and enthusiasm to improve food security and resilience among the world’s most vulnerable populations. A self-starter who works well in a non-hierarchical environment, and who is able to prioritize competing priorities, learn quickly, take initiative and be accountable for results will be necessary for this position. S/he will be dedicated to the principle of doing no harm to the natural resource base, knowledgeable on how gender dynamics relate to agricultural production, open to working with both markets and governments, and able to balance goals of increasing income with improving consumption. The Technical Advisor will be confident in providing support and advice, while understanding that beneficiary communities themselves can often identify the best strategies for success. S/he will demonstrate a strong understanding of how to work effectively in varying cultural, political and religious environments.


The position will preferably be based in Mercy Corps’ headquarters offices in Portland, OR or Washington D.C., and requires at least 30% travel both within the US and internationally. The Technical Advisor will travel to field sites that may lack amenities or be in volatile environments where security protocols will need to be followed.

Mercy Corps team members represent the agency both during and outside of work hours when deployed in a field posting or on a visit/TDY to a field posting. Team members are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner and respect local laws, customs and Mercy Corps’ policies, procedures, and values at all times and in all in-country venues.

Job Location

Portland, Oregon, United States

Position Type