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Jamila Haider (Ottawa, ON)
IDM Alumnus, Tajikistan
Why did you apply for the AKFC Fellowship Program?
The wide range of opportunities was a huge asset. I was able to follow my passion and career development goals in natural resource management in a broader development context while gaining invaluable insights from other development sectors.
What was your overseas placement?
I worked with the Mountain Societies Development Support Programme (MSDSP) in Khorog, Tajikistan as the Natural Resource Management Coordinator. Besides the reporting and evaluation role that I played in the organization I chose to work specifically on a cross border project with Afghanistan where we were working on water management between the two countries and helping farmers adapt to constantly changing water availability.
How did you feel when you first arrived in your host country?
Arriving in a country you know little about is certainly overwhelming. The professional cultural context is also different of course! The support I received from AKFC was just right and made the transition easy. While I had the freedom to find my own place in the community, I received guidance and support when I needed it.
What skills or lessons did you learn overseas?
The list of skills I learned overseas is too long to list. I had the opportunity to engage with farmers at the local level, Ministers of the national government and high profile international donors. I learned basic skills such as budget management, report and proposal writing as well as monitoring and evaluation across a wide array of projects. I had opportunities to work with expert consultants in my field, travel widely in the region both to work with communities and also senior policy-makers on developing program ideas. I eventually worked on sector-specific organizational strategy for the organization.
In addition to the professional skills, I learned invaluable life lessons! How to jumpstart a car, how to garden, how to navigate inhospitable mountain terrain, and how to cook in an extremely scarce food landscape.
What are you doing now?
After the Fellowship Program, I stayed on to work with AKF Afghanistan for a year, first as the Cross Border Programme Support Officer and then as the National Natural Resource Management Coordinator based in Kabul. That experience allowed me to get an in depth view of governance across local and national and international contexts.
Iâ€™m currently doing my Masters of Philosophy in Political Ecology at the University of Cambridge, and writing a number of academic papers with various international research institutes on topics related to my experience in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Iâ€™m also writing a small book called â€śBo dastoni khud â€“ With our handsâ€ť: A Book of Food, and Life, in the Afghan and Tajik Pamirs, which tells the story of a rapidly changing cultural and physical landscape.
My experience as an IDM Fellow opened up innumerable professional doors for me, provided novel insight into ways to conceptualize some of the worldâ€™s complex sustainability issues and provided a network of friends for which I am extremely grateful.