Josee Koch from the Netherlands worked as an APO from 2004 to 2007 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her assignment focused on HIV and AIDS issues, agriculture and rural livelihoods.
“When I applied for an APO position, I specifically asked for one that would address HIV/ AIDS issues and was subsequently offered a post in the Regional Inter-Agency Support Office (RIACSO) in Johannesburg with the FAO Gender and the Emergency division.
One aspect of the job is to contribute to the prevention and mitigation of HIV/AIDS in emergency settings. Another is liaising with the other UN agencies in RIACSO on HIV/AIDS. Jointly we have designed programmes that strengthen the livelihoods of orphans and vulnerable children and promote HIV/AIDS awareness programmes.
What I find most interesting is how the HIV/AIDS endemic can be addressed using different approaches. One approach I have been supporting is the FAO Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools (JFFLS) programme in Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Namibia which teaches orphaned children knowledge and life skills enabling them to avoid turning to risky coping strategies.
The FAO team is incredibly diverse with people from Scotland, Canada, South Africa and Uganda. This makes it very interesting, but also quite challenging as everyone has their own cultural norms and values. Here in RIACSO, different UN agencies work together so it’s important to sit around a table, take off your agency hat and go beyond the limits of one’s mandate. Progress may sometimes be slow, but when we join forces it’s truly an inspiration to see what can be achieved.
My assignment ended in October 2007 and I am now working for a DFID programme called the Regional Hunger and Vulnerability Programme. I am still based in Johannesburg and recently became a mother for the first time. South Africans are the warmest people I have ever met and I am happy to be part of this country and to share my life with its people.”