Science - November 17, 2005

Internship/ From Ghana to Italy

Moses Abukari from Ghana is doing an MSc in International Land and Water Management in Wageningen. Last summer, he went to Rome for an internship. He worked at the head office of the development organisation International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). His describes his experiences:

‘There are more than 800 million poor people worldwide, of whom 57% live in rural areas. IFAD’s main aim is helping these people. I made an inventory of all IFAD’s water-related projects. Then I made an overview of all IFAD grants to see how much money has been allocated to the water projects. There were also projects running in Ghana, which is really good, but I also know that bringing about change is not that easy.

‘Italy was a big surprise. It was quite similar to Ghana: the lifestyle and the way of not worrying too much. Some friends came over from America. The bed in their hotel broke, so they called reception. The answer was: ‘Don’t worry. It happens all the time. Just sleep on the floor.’ It felt a little bit like home.

‘Only the language was really different. At IFAD people spoke English, but on the street nobody did. I tried learning some Italian, but it is difficult. The first month I stayed in a hotel, but that was too expensive. So after a week, I asked around and told everybody I was looking for a place. I did find a place, but it was still expensive. I shared it with a guy working in my department.

‘Sometimes I cooked in my room, but mostly I went out. I ate lots of pasta and pizza. I also learned not to say no when someone asked me for a cappuccino. I worked in the head office of IFAD from eight till five, sometimes longer. The cappuccino break is a moment to interact and get to know each other outside work.

‘I got to see a lot of Rome. It was summertime, so there were lots of tourists and lots going on. And I saw many ancient buildings: they are huge, amazing and still so strong after so many centuries. They must have been great architects.

‘I also visited the Vatican and I even saw the new Pope, four times. It was great and very exciting. I am a Catholic so this was very special to me. The first time I saw him, I got such a warm feeling. I told my father on the phone that I had seen him. He told me that I had really achieved something.

‘It was very challenging to work for IFAD. You ask yourself what is happening globally, but it’s difficult to think in terms of global solutions. Poverty works at the local level and it’s hard work to make global solutions that fit in different social contexts.’ / LH

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