Former development worker José Jiménez from Ecuador (left) with a cocoa farmer in Salcedo, Dominican Republic.
What have you done since leaving Progressio and what do you do currently?
When I returned to my country, I got involved with a coffee producers’ organisation called Federación Regional de Asociaciones de Pequeños Cafetaleros Ecológicos del Sur del Ecuador (FAPECAFES - Regional Federation of Associations of Small Ecological Coffee Producers of Southern Ecuador), the same organisation that harvests and exports special quality coffees with organic certification and implements production development projects to strengthen the coffee chain in the organisation. I have been working for a Local Economic Development Programme for a year which is run by ACDI/VOCA and is also financed by USAID.
Please describe your role and the partner organisation that you worked with as a Progressio development worker
My role as a development worker was to support the development of human skills and to be part of a group of local technical experts. I worked as an Agroecology and Rural Development Adviser, with a focus on Tropical Agroforestry. This involved working with three organisations from the Dominican Republic: Junta Agroecológica Campesina de Salcedo (JUNACAS – Agroecological Farming Union of Salcedo), Campesinos Federados de Salcedo (CAFESA – Federated Farmers of Salcedo) and Cooperativa Agroecológica de Solimán (COOPASOL – Agroecological Cooperative of Solimán). These organisations were all able to qualify for organic certification and fair trade. But more than this, in-depth work was undertaken around the subject of coffee and cocoa productivity and quality, and they also managed to establish business connections with importers.
What inspired you to become a development worker?
Getting to know new cultures, sharing knowledge and learning from the producers of the Dominican Republic.
What struck you most about Progressio’s development worker model/approach?
I was impacted by the age and gender equity with which Progressio works, and the commitment to supporting the most vulnerable.
What did you enjoy most about your role, and of your experience as a development worker?
Living with the people from the rural communities and sharing their day to day experiences.
What were some of your main achievements while working as a development worker?
Looking for alternatives in conjunction with the producers to strengthen their organisations, and providing support in the definition of their strategic and commercial plans.
And what were some of the key challenges and lessons learnt?
Reinforcing the value chain of cocoa, with the producers at farm level; the process of stockpiling; quality control; commercialisation; and organisational and business strengthening.
Did this experience change you as a person in any way?
Yes, it has made me into someone who is always ready to learn and relearn.
Did your experience as a development worker influence your career/future direction, and help you to get to where you are today?
It has helped me to better understand life, and above all, to learn from others and have a broader view of the world, the same view which has professionally helped me to be more optimistic about development.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of becoming a development worker?
Take the step, because becoming a Progressio development worker is always an opportunity to grow and help others.