Indian Jeevanandhan Duraisamy was an APO based in Mozambique from 2003 to 2006. His assignment was sponsored by the Dutch Government. Jeeva now works as an Emergency Operations Officer for FAO’s Avian Flu programme at Rome headquarters.
“My illiterate grandfather's development work in my village and my father's role in promoting education inspired me to pursue a career in rural development. As farmers, my family often felt the effects of living in a semi-arid region prone to droughts and this affected their financial ability to support my studies. In fact, my uncle paid for my univeristy tuition. This experience motivated me to work for farmers in developing countries who were not as lucky as me.
After finishing a Masters in community development, I worked as a Young Professional for the Government of India’s Ministry of Rural Development. Three years later, I applied for an APO assignment with FAO and was selected to be a community forestry officer with a project in Mozambique entitled “Support for Community Forestry and Wildlife Management”.
Moving to Mozambique was very exciting. I had always dreamt of going to Africa to work on environment and wildlife issues. As the only international expert working on the project, I reported directly to the FAO Permanent Representative, which was a unique position for an APO and involved a lot of responsibility. There were high expectations of me and I worked patiently to earn the trust of Government officials.
My farming background and participatory community forestry work helped me get close to local communities and I have kept in contact with many of them. In Mucombezi village in central Mozambique I helped facilitate construction of two drinking water wells close to the school and campsite. (Note: The above picture shows Jeeva - far right - and one of the wells). This brought men and women together to deal with community forestry issues. Additionally, it solved drinking water problems which allowed children to go back to school rather than spending their time fetching water.
I would advise APOs to take every opportunity to “learn by doing” - particularly if in field duty stations. I also believe APO’s stationed at headquarters should try and get to the field as much as possible. Make sure you have a short term goal to achieve something that will always be remembered – even just little ideas can be relevant. As an APO, one has a rare opportunity to serve the world with a unique and prestigious institution. Some of the smallest things I was able to achieve will always be at the back of my mind.”