Javier Lopez Gago
Working in Angola for the Special Programme on Food Security, Javier is sponsored by the Community of Galicia (Xunta de Galicia) Spain.
"I think an international experience with FAO can be very worthy both professionally and personally. My Fellowship began in March 2008 with a visit to Rome before being sent to Huambo, Angola, to work on the Special Programme on Food Security (SPFS). This programme, financed by the Spanish Cooperation Agency (AECID), aims to assist public policies in Angola and build small farmers’ capacities.
My first impression of Huambo was the movement of people in the streets, mothers holding their babies on their shoulders, children everywhere and ambulant vendors with all kind of products to sell. There is just a small group of foreign people in Huambo, working in the UN agencies and NGOs. We often meet up in our leisure time and as we all work in different fields (agriculture, environment, gender, health, education) it is very interesting to exchange impressions and opinions.
Angola is a fascinating and surprising country - especially in this transitional period. After almost thirty years of conflict, people are trying to develop their lives in peace. Although the traces of the war are still apparent, there seems to be a general push to reactivate civil society as well as local production. This kind of grassroots action gives hope for a better future in Angola.
The field activities of the SPFS are primarily focused on the Farmer Field School initiative (which in Portuguese is called “Escolas do Campo”) but there are also components on identification, validation and diffusion of simple but successful practises in local agriculture. I am very interested in the exchange of knowledge between traditional and “modern” science so one of the most remarkable things about this experience has been working with both the traditional knowledge of the local rural population and studies made by national organizations.
I have learnt a lot about the design and management of training programmes, monitoring and evaluation techniques, administration, capacity building, decentralised cooperation and applied ethnobiology. The cultural exchange and working in a different language are experiences I will take with me throughout my career."