By Lillian Kiarie
Kenya: Gilad Milo heads business development at Amiran Kenya Ltd. The former Israeli diplomat, nicknamed “King of Love”, exudes energy effortlessly, which perhaps explains why the Calabash Band invites him to sing with them during his free time. And if there ever was a competition to find the employees who know the most about their company, Milo would definitely be among the frontrunners.
I notice from the pictures hanging on the walls that you have lost a lot of weight. What’s your secret?
Coffee, cigarettes and swimming!
You have had an interesting career path. Where did it all begin?
In the wee years of my career, I served as an editor and reporter for Israel’s Channel 2 News, and covered historic events such as the 9/11 bombing in the US and the war in Afghanistan.
After two years, I resigned from television and joined the Israeli diplomatic corps. I have served as deputy ambassador of Israel to Kenya and deputy permanent representative to the United Nations Environment Programme and UN Habitat. I headed Israel’s public diplomacy efforts in Los Angeles, US, before returning to Kenya to work for Amiran, one of the largest agricultural companies in East Africa.
What is your work at Amiran about?
My position at Amiran has involved working with our team to revolutionise and revitalise agriculture and make it “cool”, while creating new partnerships with Government, donors and NGOs, private sector and leading finance and micro-finance institutions.
And this has led to ...
As part of the Amiran team, I have been behind successful campaigns such as the Next Generation Farmers Initiative that brought modern model farms based on Israeli agro-technology to more than 1,000 schools in Kenya. This was in partnership with the Kenya Red Cross Society and the ‘Farming is Cool’ campaign, which has seen tens of thousands of youth in East Africa consider agribusiness their main source of livelihood.
Amiran has received Millennium Development Goal awards three times from the United Nations Development Programme for its efforts towards the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, youth empowerment, and last year, we were named the MDG Champion of the Year.
What has Amiran done to win such recognition?
With the leadership of visionary men like Yariv Kedar, Amiran’s deputy managing director, the firm has introduced affordable solutions for small-scale agribusiness to help farmers access modern agricultural technologies. We have also partnered with financial institutions to offer loans to farmers, opened agricultural training centres and introduced environmentally friendly agricultural inputs.
How did you end up choosing the musician Juliani as Amiran’s brand ambassador?
Juliani is the real thing. He’s powerful, spiritual and idealistic, and believes that there is no dignity in poverty, which he knows from experience. He is a leader who has embraced the role and has made young people take a closer look at agribusiness.
Being in a company that distributes greenhouses, do you own one?
Yes (shows me pictures on his phone). We are growing organic tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, coriander and other herbs for my family’s consumption. We have the company’s Sh195,000 enterprise kit.
How did you spend Valentine’s Day?
I was in Nakuru with Juliani and the Amiran team for the Nakuru leg of the Juliani ‘Farming is Cool’ Concert Tour. My wife was in Nairobi with our kids.
I have been madly in love with my wife since I met her when we served together in the Israel Defence Forces, and she is confident of my dedication to her. We do not need a special day to celebrate our love because every day is a celebration for us.
What do you do when you are not at work?
I sing with the Calabash Band. We met at a club in Nairobi and they invited me to sing and I have been an honorary member of the band for more than two years — I have even played at weddings and other social events. The band nicknamed me “King of Love” because I bring a lot of passion to my singing. I love singing romantic Swahili songs.
What is your favourite Swahili song?
Haturudi Nyuma by Kidum. The song captivated me and even though I did not understand all the Swahili, I learnt the lyrics.
You speak Hebrew — teach us something in the language.
Did you know that in Hebrew, Kenya means “nest of God”? Ken is nest, and Ya is God.
Which is your favourite restaurant?
Restaurant Home with food cooked by the chef My Wife is the best. However, I also like Furusato, a sushi restaurant in Nairobi.
What is your worst habit?
Smoking. It’s been a journey trying to quit.