Wow, I have been here for nearly 5 weeks now, so I’m going to reflect on these few weeks.
To begin, I would like to say that it’s going by too fast, and I would like it pause for at least another 2 months. I am happy to say that I am really enjoying my time here, and I already wish I could stay longer. I have met some wonderful people and seen a different part of the world that I never thought I would. I have made some great friends and truly felt comfortable here (even in all the heat). So, I am truly thankful to gather up the courage to do my PE in a foreign country; I am currently thinking about pursuing international development work.
So, how has it been going overall?
Well, that’s a loaded question, but let me talk specifically about my PE.
I work for the Center for the Environment for Community Assets Development, as I’ve already mentioned in previous posts before. I kind of feel like I am back in school when I do the work that I do here. I mainly write project / grant proposals throughout the day, but I have also helped with preparing presentations, attending meetings, and secretarial tasks.
They have staff meetings every week, and they let me sit in, but I am not sure exactly what gets said in the meetings. Sometimes, my boss would brief me with the important information like deadlines I need keep in mind or tasks she would like me to do.
Last week, I sat in a meeting with VECO Vietnam, an NGO that is part of a larger Belgian organization called Vredeseilanden. They carry out very similar activities to us, but in a different province in Vietnam, and I think have been more successful because they are bigger and have more funds. They too, care about safe vegetables and bringing produce by small farmers into the market. They do it by using a trusting certification called PGS.
PGS (Participatory Guarantee Systems) began nearly forty years ago at the International Federation of Organic Movements (IFOAM), and it is an inexpensive certification that uses many external agencies to monitor and annually inspect vegetable quality and agricultural practice. PGS is non-hierarchical; includes farmers, consumers, and other stakeholders into the certification process; and used locally-based mechanisms appropriate to the social context in which it operates. This might a viable option for small farmers in Vietnam, who are constantly crowded out by large producers and Chinese producers, to be able to sell their products in the local market.
We are currently in the process of partnering with VECO, potentially, because combining our resources would produce better results.
And… that’s all that I have been doing. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but like writing a good essay, it takes time and practice. I have gone through 5 drafts of my current project proposal, but I think I’m close to finishing it and sending it off to ICCO.
I have learned that development work definitely takes time. We have to be sure how we are going to carry out activities and how the results are going to be measured. I am happy that I get a lot of leiway on how to write project proposals. I am often retreating back to GPP 105 material to see writing techniques and journals on participation.
I actually cited Duraiappah, Chambers, and Easterly in this present proposal!
One thing that I wish I knew more about is agriculture, biodiversity, rural livelihoods, and organic farming. I feel like I have to do a lot of research to understand these concepts, but CECAD has definitely provided me with a lot of information so far, and I ask my coworkers a lot questions. I also wish I would be present to see the projects I have been working on, implemented. The grant proposal that I submitted last week, if we get that grant, that project will begin after I leave.
Beside those two things, I think everything is going well so far. I am going to visit CECAD’s project site in a week or two, depending on how fast they can organize the trip. This will be my opportunity to actually meet the Muong ethnic minority that CECAD serves. I know I probably won’t be able to understand them, but I will definitely try.
I think that’s all I have to say. I can’t believe that my PE is halfway over.
Over and out.