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Above: Learning about agrofood on an excursion Tomato World. Photo by Lissy van Noort.

It all started with a project proposal to the Young Expert Programme (YEP) to increase Akvo’s activities related to food security and agriculture in general and, more specifically, in South East Asia.

As Akvo’s roots are in the water sector, today Akvo tools are widespread within this sector. The agrofood sector however, is quite new to Akvo. We do have several activities and programmes taking place in this sector, and we encounter more and more interest from agrofood-focused organisations to expand in this field.

Simultaneously, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has prioritised food security and water management as two important thematic fields. This is partly why the YEP decided to broaden their focus towards both water and agrofood.

From 2016 onwards, Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP) will be leading the programme together with the Food & Business Knowledge Platform (F&BKP).  The aim of YEP is to ensure ongoing international expertise in the water and agrofood sectors in the future and to contribute to a dynamic network of international water and agrofood experts.

Back to the project proposal. In order to increase Akvo’s presence in the agrofood sector in South East Asia, we applied for a YEP position in Vietnam. This position focuses on business development and partner support in South East Asia ma
inland (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand & Myanmar) and is related to the promotion of inclusive and sustainable growth in the agricultural sector. The proposal has been approved by YEP, which means that I will be working for Akvo in Vietnam from mid-March 2016 onwards, together with my colleague Joy Ghosh.

Since I was a little kid it was my wish to travel abroad and actually stay there for a while. After my MSc research in Uganda in 2011, I took additional steps toward this goal with a three month travel period to Central Asia and several training trips for Akvo to West Africa, East Africa and South East Asia & Pacific. As you can imagine, I’m beyond excited to leave for Vietnam next month. I’m thrilled to live in another part of the world for some time, and to get the opportunity to get to know a new country and its culture, food, way of living and nature. Besides that, I can’t wait to go to the office on a motorbike every day, and eat unlimited fresh Vietnamese springrolls. 

In preparation for this, I participated in the YEP Water & Agrofood training from 11-29 January 2016, together with 24 other young experts. This was the first combined Water & Agrofood YEP training and it was great to meet so many new people working in these sectors.

Introducing YEP group #7.

The training started with one week of personal development training for Dutch YEP’ers on a farm in Veessen, Netherlands. The international YEP’ers spent this week with their organisations, to get to know their colleagues in the Netherlands. The personal development training was facilitated by Annemiek Tavecchio and we focused on everyone’s strengths, taking our Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) profiles as input. We did several exercises to find out how we want to develop over the coming year (or two) during our secondment. This will result in a personal development plan that we need to create in the coming months.

From 18-29 January 2016 we spent two weeks in Amersfoort with both international and Dutch YEP’ers. These training weeks included topics such as intercultural communication, facilitation, project planning, conflict management, MBTI and project management. We also had masterclasses about water and agrofood, and excursions to Tomato World, Maeslantkering and Moyee Coffee

As my colleague Charlotte describes in this blog – Akvo and NoCliches are also part of the training programme, as we jointly facilitate a training about social media, Akvo RSR and videos. This time the training was carried out by my colleagues Christien and Annabelle.

The three week training ended with a final presentation from us as YEP group #7 for the YEP bureau and our coaches, explaining our strategy for the YEP trend assignment. Together, we need to look at upcoming trends in the water and agrofood sector. The aim is to come up with 3-5 trends at the end of 2016, and present these trends to relevant people and organisations in our network in early 2017 in the Netherlands.

The YEP training was a great opportunity to get to know lots of different people and learn more about each other and ourselves. I’m looking forward to starting work in Vietnam and will keep you updated about my activities on my very own RSR project page. In the meantime, you can find more photos and videos of the training on my Flickr album.

Lissy van Noort is project manager at Akvo. Follow her @lissyvn.