Rev. Roosevelt Tarlesson and his family, originally from Liberia, are known figures in the African and refugee community of California. Since arriving in California in the 1970s, Roosevelt has been uplifting farming as a tool to reconnect California-based African refugees with their cultural roots and provide a means of economic development.

Roosevelt has been involved in a long list of community projects, and is also politically engaged, participating in United Nations gatherings to advocate for refugee work programs. As an active member of the California Farmer Justice Collaborative, he was instrumental in passing California’s Farmer Equity Act, but like many of us, knows and critiques it’s limitations.

Roosevelt’s priority is to create something that works for poor folks. He sees good intention in farm incubator programs and wonders whether these programs are “designed for poor people.” His sense is that programs like this work best for folks who already have some level of connection, and often some level of capital or farming exposure; participants join to seek more formal training and then start up a farm business for production. This doesn’t work for houseless urban folks, or people who don’t know anything about farming because they have been displaced from their lands or are dealing with historical trauma related to farming and violent systems of oppression. “I’ve seen the refugee crisis,” Roosevelt says, “I’ve seen how the Iraq and Bosnia wars and conflicts have devastated my community’s experiences.”

For these reasons and more, Rev. Tarlesson has spearheaded the creation of an autonomous land stewardship project called U-Farm and home in collaboration with over 80 Black families and individuals.
Roosevelt Tarlesson is a member of CFJC’s Governance Committee


Dr. Ikechi Agbugba is an agro-economist and food security specialist focusing on entrepreneurship, agribusiness management, and related areas. He features as an ambassador to different African diaspora groups. He has gleaned good experience as a diaspora expert with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Federal Department of Agriculture Nigeria under the Food Crop Production Technology Transfer Station (FCPTTS) at Ubiaja and the National Horticulture Research Institute (NIHORT) at Ibadan.

He is Researcher and Development Officer with Reform Corporation International (RFI), London, UK, Visiting Professor with Rome Business School, and Senior Lecturer with Rivers State University. Since 2003, he has been researching the economics of agriculture, agribusiness, and food and agricultural commodities marketing. He earned Ph.D. in Marketing Food and Agricultural Products. He gained Postdoctoral Research Experience on a collaborative study between South Africa’s Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and the University of Fort Hare, Alice Campus. He is an external examiner with the Development Studies Department University of Fort Hare and has examined Ph.D. students since 2018.

Currently, he features as a senior academic/researcher playing mentoring roles to university students, African youths, and teenagers, as well as engaging with international networking volunteer organizations across Africa and outside, as either a senior advisor or director in championing Africa’s transformation through the agriculture/agribusiness and education sectors.

He is an active advocate member of the European Technology Chamber (EUTECH), participating in different workstreams as an expert and speaker. Recently, he was nominated as a Board Member of the Food, Farming and Fisheries Alliance Committee by EUTECH, focusing on possible and easy solutions for deploying business ideas and relevant technology to targeted African communities and developing interregional technology cooperation between Europe and Africa. Dr. Agbugba states, “moves to industrialize the agriculture sector must be vastly encouraged, especially in this era of the advent of technology and the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).”

To mention a few, Dr. Agbugba is also an Advisory Board Member with the African Continental Chamber for Commerce and Industry (ACCCI); Director, Research & Development/International Coordinator for the Africa Agriculture Agenda (AAA); Senior Advisor, African Youth Diaspora Organization (AYDO); Senior Adviser, Tomatoes and Orchard (Horticulture) Producers Association of Nigeria (TOPAN); Senior Advisor, AgriEn (an agribusiness and agri energy initiative focused on accelerating development and delivery of innovative and sustainable interventions in food security, among other initiatives).

It is important to note that in building the technological capacity of African smallholder farmers, Dr. Bischof and Dr. Agbugba developed a PETS Foreign Policy Ecosystem for African agripreneurs. He is a selected academia/researcher stakeholder in the Feed-the-Future initiative of the USAID Global Food Security Strategy Whole-System Workshop. He has led plenary sessions on Food Security and Agribusiness, especially at the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IFAMA) World Congress held at St Paul, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Moreover, he received the excellence award: ‘Agro-Economist of the Year’ at the 2017 Conference of the Pan African Agricultural Journalists (PAAJ).

He also emerged as one of the top recipients of the Global Emerging Leaders’ Award 2022, as announced by the Global Council for the Promotion of International Trade (GCPIT), as well as the State News from the Prime Minister of the State of the African Diaspora (SOAD).