2017 KAPEX Colombian Trainee
I still remember with nostalgia my time in Korea. Being part of the KAPEX Program has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. The idea of studying in Korea never crossed my mind until this opportunity appeared. I did not know the variety of research studies Korea is carrying out on food and agriculture, but thanks to KREI I surprised myself with them. However, what surprised me the most was how the culture and traditional knowledge have been preserved.
The KAPEX Program was an incredible opportunity to see how both traditional knowledge and the latest advances from Korea could be applicable and adapted to the context of Colombia, my home country. A really diverse country with great food and agricultural potential, but also a wide heritage that has tried to be preserved historically by peasants, afro and indigenous communities, and small-scale farmers. That is why my interests are related to food sovereignty, as well as alternative and sustainable ways of farming from the social, economic and environmental perspective. Nutrition, food, and agriculture have a narrow relation where many factors interact. I find necessary to fully understand it, especially in developing countries like mine, where inequity, hunger, and malnutrition are still pretty visible.
In fact, during our stay in Korea, me and my colleagues from Colombia focused our research on the Korean cooperative model, in order to strengthen food and nutrition security of small dairy farmers from Ubaté, a Colombian province. The research would not have been possible without the partnership among the CIAP from KREI, a regional government of Colombia (Cundinamarca) and the National University of Colombia. After returning from Korea, learnings from the Korean agricultural model were adapted and transferred to small-scale farmers in Colombia. Likewise, the abovementioned partnership was the first step for the constitution of a School of Leaders in Food Sovereignty and Food and Nutrition Security in Ubaté, which I am glad to tell, it is currently working. The School has allowed small-scale farmers to improve their leadership skills and their relation with public institutions. Similarly, it aims to build autonomous solutions towards the consecution of food and nutrition security and sustainable farms. Actually, an initiative developed because of the School, the Territorial Food Laboratory is an example of that. It is a space for co-creating solutions to everyday problems of farms. In order to support and ensure the sustainability of these initiatives over time, I consider, continuity of ODA plays an important role. Likewise, the School is also an example of the impact of knowledge transfer and knowledge exchange over communities, which is important to maintain along with international cooperation support.
On the other hand, I am currently working as the Responsible of the Nutrition Program for an international NGO. My experience in Korea contributed to enhancing my professional skills as a nutritionist and provided me tools to better analyze food problems from a wider, deeper and comprehensive perspective, which has been very helpful at my work.
I only have feelings of gratitude towards KREI, CIAP and especially, towards the friendly and welcoming Korean people I hope to visit again someday. The KAPEX Program has been the mean to bring two countries that seem very distant together and have connected them by the kindness and a feeling of solidarity I am sure will last.