Internship with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation
Building A Better World Together!
From March to June 2019, one AYF alumni had the opportunity to complete a three-month internship with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Pema Yangchen, an AYF fellow from 2018, gained valuable experience, skills and a deeper knowledge of sustainable development during her internship; skills which she is already using back at AYF.
FAO is an organisation under the United Nations which leads the fight against global hunger. The organisation’s primary goal is to achieve food security, which means ensuring every single person has access to food, and the ability to live a healthy life. As AYF’s values align closely with those of FAO, we committed to forming a relationship.
In 2018 AYF began the process towards partnership with FAO, signing an official letter of intent. Our relationship focuses primarily on achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2, Zero Hunger. We do many collaborative activities include training, internships, knowledge-sharing, advocacy and capacity building. Through this partnership, we aim to deepen our engagement with the United Nations to develop sustainable food and agriculture both in Japan and globally.
Pema Yangchen grew up in the northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and graduated with an MBA from Dibrugarh University, where she specialized in Marketing and Human Resources. As a member of the Monpa ethnic group, one of the most remote ethnic groups in the world, Pema has a deep understanding of the challenges facing indigenous communities, and the need for social impact. After graduation, Pema applied her skills in the areas of finance and business development, and was chosen from her cohort to undertake the internship at FAO due to her passion for making real change in the lives of people around her.
Pema’s work at FAO centred around a department named Strategic Program 2 (SP2), which focuses on sustainably increasing production in agriculture, forestry and fisheries in the face of climate change and environmental degradation. Her day-to-day work involved doing research for a survey to assess sustainable practices and the risks grassroots producers might face. This survey will be used to help evaluate sustainability and promote sustainable practices in local farms, addressing critical issues for those at the grassroots. “With surveys like this, we can help farmers to finally understand whether or not the farming practices they’ve been doing for so long are sustainable”, Pema explained. She also assisted in reviewing and analyzing the funding landscape for SP2 related projects.
The second focus of Pema’s internship was on assisting in the facilitation of youth-led workshops teaching sustainable agriculture for urban food systems in East Africa. These workshops provide expertise to young farmers, enhancing rural and urban collaboration, and contributing to the creation of an urban food system. Pema attended meeting calls with workshop coordinators, checked over content, planned curriculum and sent materials for the workshops, which are currently ongoing in Mbale, Uganda.
One of the biggest challenges Pema faced during her internship was becoming accustomed to the fast-paced, high-level environment she worked in. Pema says that the intricate structure of the United Nations and the complexity of her area’s work made for a steep learning curve. “SP2 is a very complex division because it contains everything. Other divisions are technical divisions that specialize in fisheries or forests or mountains, but SP2 is where everything joins together.”
The internship allowed Pema to experience first-hand what it is like to work in an international organisation, and was an opportunity to understand how to promote sustainable agricultural methods within the context of local culture.
AYF will continue to strengthen their bond with FAO, as both organisations move towards their shared goal of sustainable development.