Remember that question that teachers were always asking us at school: what do you want to be when you grow up?
Kids used to say astronauts, the president, engineers, soccer players, doctors and many more but my answer was different. I always said I wanted to do what my dad does. I wanted to work in development.
You may wonder how a 10 year old kid had in my mind this crazy idea that most of my friends at school didn’t even know it exists. Well, it all started with my first field trip to the Bolivian rural area. My dad and I drove for six hours to a small community of around 50 families, standing at 5000 meters above the sea level, that had no more than some llamas and potato fields to survive.
The Andes can be majestic, but at that altitude life is tough. The cold weather and lack of precipitation makes agriculture almost impossible, with no more development opportunities.Going to school becomes a two hours walk during the cold weather and the nearest health center is so far away and out of reach for many. But despite all these difficulties, that day, I saw what many of us call hope.
The objective of the trip was to inaugurate a new project for the community. There was hope and happiness in the face of all the people we saw and their warm hospitality made me feel at home. It was priceless. It was there when I realize about the needs of my country, that there was so much work to do in the rural areas in order to provide a better life for my people and that it was my desire to do something.
I spent my entire childhood in the city and didn’t know anything about agriculture or rural development. But, I wanted to work on that. Choosing a University to study was a challenge as most of the Universities in Bolivia offer agriculture with more focus on production and the economic faculties lack quite a lot when it comes to field work. Thanks to my father’s best friend I found a small University in Honduras, Zamorano. They were offering a career in Environmental Engineering and Socioeconomic Development based on a learning by doing program. It was what I was looking for.
Together with students coming from 17 countries from all over Latin America, I spent the best four years of my life; living and learning from the work in the rural areas. The learning by doing program gave the opportunity to spend half of the time at the University working in the entire agricultural chain of production. I still remember the first time I grabbed a hoe and milked a cow, it was all new for me. Zamorano gave me the tools to work in rural development; but even more important, it gave the inspiration to do more.
After graduation, a Google search for master programs in the development sector took me to a website that at the moment I felt like it was created for me. A platform for young professionals in agriculture with many opportunities to apply called YPARD. It was there where I also found the opportunity to apply for the Erasmus Mounds Program that I am currently involved in and had the opportunity to assist at the Global Conference in Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD3).
Thanks to my Masters program I had the chance to meet people from all over the world, travel and get involved in research programs related to rural development. At the GCARD3, I found a new family and the friendship that we made with other YPARD members has been amazing.
As if it wasn’t enough, thanks to YPARD I came across another opportunity the One Young World Summit . My application was among the selected ones and I have just returned from a life changing event in Ottawa Canada.
As of now I’ve started working on my thesis project in Food Security and I am looking forward to finish my masters and start working on my own project to provide job and education opportunities for youth in rural areas.
Opportunities are a pool of doors in our lives, we just have to find the keys to open them. My family, my University and YPARD, have been the keys for many of them. Now it’s time to become a key too, and return what others have given to me.
Testimonal by Sergio Alejandro Urioste Daza a national of Bolivia currently living in Belgium.
Photo credits: Photo 1 and 3: Sergio ; Photo 2: Green Lava