An APO at FAO Headquarters in Rome from 2005 to 2008, Siobhan Casey is from Northern Ireland. Her assignment was as an Agricultural Economist with the Agricultural Management, Marketing and Finance (AGSF) division. She is now working for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Ireland.
“I studied agriculture in Dublin specializing in animal science and afterwards, completed a Masters in Bovine Reproductive Physiology. I taught for a while and then worked in Ireland’s Department of Agriculture for three years. Ireland advertises only two APO jobs every couple of years so when I received the letter of offer, I was shocked– I thought ‘Oh my God I’m going to Rome!!’
I worked on the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) with the AGSF Division. It took some time to gain an appreciation for the topic and where I could realistically contribute and add value. Meeting ‘GAP standards’ can be very challenging for some small farmers with low incomes, so we carried out studies on the investments and skills required as well as costs involved in Chile, South Africa, Kenya and Malaysia. I also helped organize a workshop in Uganda - the energy in the room when a breakthrough was made was something I will never forget.
I would estimate that it took about ten months to truly find my feet. The range of subject matter, work styles, environment and bureaucracy was breathtaking at the start. My educational background was a useful grounding for FAO but more important were my interpersonal and diplomatic skills that I hadn’t realized existed! I relied on the kindness of strangers and truly knew what it was to be a stranger in a strange land. The comradeship with other APOs, consultants and support from colleagues was invaluable.
As an APO you will work harder, but travel further, than you ever imagined. You will have the opportunity to attend meetings on international agreements and attend presentations on cutting edge topics. You will discuss decentralization intensively over tea (or coffee), but from Harare to Addis Ababa rather than Dublin to Portlaoise. It will not be easy but nothing worth having ever is.”