Who We Are

Aline Mihigo, Coffee Field Officer
An experienced agronomist based in Bukavu, Aline works to support the development of ECI’s coffee program in South Kivu, Kawa Bora ya Kivu. Aline studied agronomy at the Universite Evangelique en Afrique (UEA) in Bukavu, and speaks fluent French, Swahili, and Lingala. She joined ECI in April 2013.

Alphonsine Mbela, Finance & Administration Manager
Alphonsine joined ECI in January 2013 and oversees the financial operations. Alphonsine has a wealth of experience in accounting and has previously worked for World Vision DRC, World Vision Zimbabwe, and UNHCR. She has one degree in Economics and one in Human Resources Management from the Universite Ouverte du Nord Kivu. Alphonsine was born and grew up in Goma. She speaks English, French, Swahili, and Lingala.

Baraka Kasali, Program Officer
Baraka was born in Beni, DRC, but grew up in Nairobi and Chicago. A Program Officer at ECI since October 2012, Baraka leads ECI’s cocoa revitalization program. Baraka worked in marketing in Chicago for four years before returning to Congo where he spent three years teaching English at a university in North Kivu. He also supported the development of student-led initiatives, including the development of student government. Baraka studied at Trinity International University in Deerfield, IL, and speaks English, French, and Swahili.

Caro Brown, Finance and Administrative Director
Caro brings a Bachelor in Business and Administration, a Master of Science in Forensic Accounting, and more than a decade of experience in for-profit, not-for-profit, and public accounting. Prior to joining ECI in October 2015, Caro worked for the French group Bollore Africa Logistics as an Assistant Controller, and the Maryland Based Audit firm AUDIREX LLC as a senior consultant. Caro is currently working on the final part of her Certified Managerial Accountant program. She was born in Douala, Cameroon and speaks English and French.

Dario Merlo, Executive Director
Dario Merlo brings nearly a decade of leadership experience in international development to ECI. Born in eastern Congo, he previously worked for the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) as Country Director and managed community-centered conservation programs across DRC. Dario also previously worked for the North Kivu Farmer’s Association, overseeing a series of rural development initiatives, and owns a dairy farm in the province. He founded Promo Jeune Basket (PJB) in 2006, a grassroots organization that harnesses the dynamic impact that sports and basketball can have on children to build responsible Congolese citizens and future leaders. Dario studied social sciences and geography at the University of Belgium in Brussels and went on to become a high school history teacher before moving back to DRC in 2005.

Freddy Bingane, Senior Accountant 
Freddy Bingane brings years of experience in finance and accounting to ECI’s finance department. Before joining ECI in December 2014, Freddy worked as a finance officer for Save the Children International in the Oriental province. Freddy holds a degree in Management and Accounting from the University of CEPROMAD in Bunia, DRC.

Gerry Kahashy, Multimedia Assistant
Gerry was born and raised in Goma, DRC. Prior to joining ECI in October 2015, Gerry worked as a radio technician and producer at the Mutaani Project in Goma, as well as a cameraman and video editor at Big Ideas Entertainment in Kenya. Gerry speaks English, French, and Swahili.

Harper McConnell, Senior Director
Harper has a decade of experience working in the Great Lakes Region of Africa and founded the ECI office in DRC, awarding more than 80 grants to Congolese organizations working in economic development, health and education. With her Congolese colleagues, Harper structured and implemented ECI’s coffee and cocoa initiatives with cooperatives and businesses through building sustainable, traceable, and bankable value chains, reaching the specialty U.S. consumer market for the very first time. Previously, Harper has worked as the Program Officer and then later as Director of Development for HEAL Africa, a Congolese NGO specializing in orthopedics, maternal and child healthcare and public health. Harper holds a degree in Political Science and in English from the University of Minnesota and was a four-time scholar athlete. She is currently completing her Executive MBA in a partnership program with Georgetown University, ESADE (Spain) and Fundação Getulio Vargas (Brazil). Harper is fluent in English, Swahili and French.                                                        

Kristine Bergstrom, Advocacy and Communications Manager
Kristine is charged with telling the success stories of ECI’s partners in addition to integrating the voices of DRC civil society into ECI’s advocacy messages. Kristine holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science and International Politics from Pantheon Sorbonne – University of Paris 1. Prior to joining ECI in September 2015, Kristine worked as the Deputy Editor of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She speaks English, French, and Swedish.                                                        

Luc Ndyanabo, Logistics Officer
Luc joined ECI in November 2010. He is responsible for arranging all field visits, security and procurement out of ECI’s Goma office. Luc studied Economics and Management at the University of CEPROMAD. Luc was born and raised in Goma, and speaks English, French, and Swahili.

Maryline Mwenge, Finance Assistant
Maryline has over a decade’s experience in financial administration of local and international non-governmental organizations in eastern Congo, including current ECI partner HEAL Africa. She joined ECI in 2012 and supports our Finance Manager in overseeing the financial administration of ECI’s programs. Maryline grew up in Goma and studied Business Management & Administration at Universite Libre des Pays des Grands Lacs. Maryline speaks French and Swahili.