In-Country Training: A report from Central America

Published: August 14, 2019

Before leaving Austria to start my assignment as a Technical Assistant in Central America (flying-TA) I was wondering what’s going to happen during my In-Country Training, who will I meet and what will I learn? With this article I want to share my experiences, some pictures and give a very brief overview of the projects I got to know during the ‘tour’.

Agriculture Quetzaltenango

Sit back and relax, I will take you on a 4 weeks ride through Central America: 24 days – 3 countries – 15 projects; traveling approximately 700 km by plane, 920 km by bus and 1200 km by car.

Week 1) ORAC – Organización Regional de America Central

I was received with a warm welcome in Managua and met my colleagues in the Regional Office of Central America and got an introduction in their field of work and the sectors Education, Rural Development, Human Rights & Civil Society and of course Knowledge Management. I was accompanied to visit the projects AMUCOBU – Asociación de Mujeres Consuelo Buitrago and CECIM – Centro de Educación y Capacitación Integral Hna. Maura Clarke. Both are situated in Managua, CECIM a bit outside, in Ciudad Sandino. I get to know their work better and of course introduced myself. The weekend I spent in León and Las Peñitas to regain strength for…

Week 2) Nicaragua: Managua – León – Estelí – Bluefields

Lago de ManaguaAfter getting to know the women’s right organisation Asociación Proyecto Mujer – Mary Barreda in León we drove towards Lake Managua to visit León viejo – which was closed on Monday but we got rewarded with a beautiful view of Lake Managua. The next day, I took the bus from León to Estelí in order to visit FEM – Fundación Entre Mujeres another organisation fighting for women’s rights. I also got to know my TA colleague Manfred Bienert and his wife Barbara, who welcomed me in their house for the night.
Another highlight of this week was meeting the participants of the SDG-internship programme, who took part in the workshop on the topic of social communication, usage of photos and reflected writing. Towards the end of the week I travelled to Bluefields and got to know the team responsible for the ecosystems conservation project at the Bluefields Indian & Caribbean University (BICU) and FADCANIC – Fundación para la Autonomia y Desarrollo de la Costa Atlántica de Nicaragua.
After a lovely evening out on Managua’s famous malecon I almost directly went to the bus station for a long long ride through Nicaragua and Honduras to finally meet up with my colleagues in San Salvador.

Week 3) El Salvador: Perquín – Sensuntepeque – Suchitoto – San Salvador

After a little rest in the capital, we took off to visit El Mozote and Perquín in the mountainous region close to the Honduran border. I got to know the organisation FSM – Fundación Segundo Montes that works in rural development. Their aim is to promote ecological agriculture, small business development and to foster solidarity-economic initiatives.
The next day we headed to Sensuntepeque to visit the educational and youth organisation ADES – Asociación de Desarrollo Economico Social Santa Maria and to meet my TA colleague Anton Luger. We also got to know the regional community radio, Radio Victoria, which cooperates with ADES and functions as an educational radio.

Back in San Salvador I met the team of CMDL – Colectiva de Mujeres para el Desarrollo Local, better known as Colectiva Feminista with their online-radio ‘Radio de las todas’ in the morning and in the afternoon we visited the Casa de los Mujeres in Suchitoto. Another highlight in El Salvador took place the next day, when FUNDESYRAM – Fundación para el Desarollo Sociaoeconomico y Restauración Ambiental in collaboration with the European Union and the Faculty of Agronomical Science of the University of El Salvador presented the Collection of Recipes ‘Recuperación de saberes y sabores salvadoreños’. After having tasted a bit of the great variety Salvadoran food has to offer, I met my TA colleagues Lisa Hochfellner and Floor van den Berg and had a reunion with the team of FUNDESYRAM who designated themselves to rural development.
The next day we took of for a long ride towards Guatemala. We had a break in the Capital, Guatemala City and afterwards we headed directly to Quetzaltenango, the final destination.

Week 4) Guatemala: Altiplano, Lago De Atitlán and Guatemala City

I started the last week of my In-Country-Training from my so-to-say final destination Quetzaltenango, a city on 2400 meters above sea level, famous for it’s cultural diversity and activities, it’s handicraft and craft beer and of course, it’s fresh climate. The organisation UAM – Unión Agricultores Minifundistas is working in the sector of rural development by supporting small-scale farmers and indigenous families, promoting alternative agro-ecological production methods to mitigate the negative effects of climate change.
Both, UAM and Colectivo No’J, who work in the field of education with children, young people and women from rural areas, are situated in the town of Quetzaltenango.

 

The next organisation on the schedule is situated at the Lake Atitlán region, close to San Lucas. CCDA – Comité Campesino del Altiplano is dedicated to preserving ancient knowledge and practices in agriculture and the management of natural resources, promoting organic farming methods. After spectacular vies, curvy roads and some meters up and down we arrived in Santa Cruz del Quiché. The next day in the morning I got to know the team of PSQUICHE – Pastoral Sociál Diocesis de Quiché they also work in the sector of rural development. Later, in Guatemala City, I met my TA colleague Susanne Kummer and spent a night at her house. The last day of my In-Country-Training, I met the team of MIRIAM – Associación para la Promoción Intelectual de la Mujer, an organisation that fights for the rights of indigenous women promoting the integral development of women through empowerment, the vindication of their rights, gender equity and social justice. After that I had a meeting with UDEFEGUA – Unidad de protección a Defensores y Defensoras de Derechos Humanos en Guatemala. They support, protect and represent threatened human rights defenders in Guatemala. Before heading back to Quetzaltenango, I had lunch with Theresa Stourzh, another TA colleague in Guatemala.

Reflection on the In-Country-Training, “how was it?”

Some time has passed and I am slowly settling down in Xela, Quetzaltenango. I was asked to sum up the whole ‘In-Country-Training’ experience in a few sentences, but I have failed to keeping it short. So I will start with some personal reflections and then give a brief overview on the topics that I came across.

To be honest, without writing a diary on a daily basis, I might have forgotten one or another encounter. I met so many people, shook so many hands, and sat in so many meeting rooms that it got kind of hard to keep track sometimes. But, I always attempted to give all the attention and appreciation that the people that welcomed me deserved. There were mornings when I woke up and didn’t know where I was and what exactly I was doing there. Jannett (and her family) who hosted me during my time in Managua, Christina who supported me to reflect and to focus, Imelda, Mauricio, and Julio who accompanied me along the way in El Salvador and Guatemala – they all helped me a lot to keep up with the spirit and the speed of the tour. Thank you so much for that!

I am in a learning process and on the path to gain deeper knowledge about the working areas of the partner organisations and especially their specifics in social communication. Getting deep insights and a good understanding of how an organisation is functioning in just one meeting is a goal that is hard to achieve. Time always seems to be a limited resource that has to be filled with experiences, but, in my opinion, having moments to reflect is a crucial part of every learning process too. So yes, there were phases of exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed and fatigue. But most of the time there was a lot of excitement, motivation, and impatience to start working on some ideas that came up during the training.

Facing the effects of climate change makes the topic of food sovereignty more and more important. The Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 2 (no poverty and zero hunger) are visible in many objectives of partner organisations of HORIZONT3000 in the sector ‘Rural Development – Natural Resource Management’ (RD-NRM).  The fight for the protection of human rights, citizenship participation through emancipation and empowerment (SDG16), and access to quality education (SDG4) is another focus. Last but not least, on a primary and on an interdisciplinary level, stands the struggle to gain gender equality and to defend women’s rights by questioning structural sexism and the patriarchy. As long as we live in a world where the gender you are born in matters so much for the chances you get in life, there is still a long way to go towards equality. In times where the Amazon is on fire and there are still voices that refuse to acknowledge climate change, the work of grassroots and civil society organisations is more vital than ever. When there are no global political solutions in sight, the global civil society needs to stand together in solidarity and fight for the vulnerable groups on this planet. The valuable work of these NGOs and their commitment can’t be valued enough.

I’m very grateful to everyone I met for sharing their knowledge and experience in the field with me. In a next step I will work closely with the Partner Organisations of HORIZONT3000 to establish in which areas of (digital) social communication I can support them in the most meaningful way. I am looking forward to a fruitful exchange of experiences, knowledge, efforts, and learning from failure.

* Thanks to the whole ORAC-team, to Imelda, Julio and Mauricio, to all the people who received me in the Organisations and Projects and to my Technical Advisor colleagues.

Finally, the question to HORIZONT3000 technical advisors worldwide: How was your ‘In-country-training’, do you want to share your memories with us? I would love to read about your experiences! Tell us about them in the comments below or get in touch with the KM-Team, if you are interested in publishing a report via KNOW-HOW3000 News.

Eva Gaderer

Eva Gaderer

Eva was a flying TA in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua in the area of social communication.

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Agnes Koechl

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Eva! That sounds very interesting but also quite exhausting! I hope you’ll be able to get some rest in beautiful Xela 🙂 It will take some time to really get to know and understand all of the organizations. I think this can be a challenge especially for us Flying TAs. But nothing we can’t handle 😉
We also just finished our ICT here in Kampala last Friday. It was a busy week for all of us. Christian Pichler (TA in Tanzania) and Silke Goos (TA in Uganda) came with their counterparts. I think we have all profited from this exchange. I hope to be able to publish a post about my first weeks in Kampala in October – once I have visited all the partner organizations I will work with. Greetings from Kampala, Agnes

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