Sydney-Johanna Stevns

Country: Chile
Organization: La Fundación para la Innovación Agraría (FIA) Santiago, Chile

SYDNEY-JOHANNA: "I worked with an organization called La Fundación para la Innovación Agraría (FIA) (or in English, the Foundation for the Innovation of Agriculture) in Santiago, Chile. The mission of FIA is to support a culture of innovation in agriculture that improves the competitiveness of sustainable and inclusive farming. They do this by conducting research on new technologies, providing trainings, and providing funding and assistance to programs that are locally run. Ensuring that farmers in Chile can successfully adapt to climate change is key to ensuring their continued livelihoods and economic growth potential. The project I worked on was helping FIA understand how their adaptation strategies could be improved, specifically by examining how they compared to American and international standards.

I worked closely with staff to understand the projects and visited several farms throughout Chile to better understand how the technologies they promoted functioned and how their programs were operating. My final deliverable was the recommendation that they should improve their programming on the management of natural resources and sustainable development (specifically for infrastructure). This recommendation has formed the basis for a grant application they are submitting to the World Bank to further expand their programs and research efforts in these areas.

When I began my internship I was at a very minimal level of Spanish. After working and living in Chile for two months my Spanish improved significantly, however, my vocabulary now mostly consists of very technical terms about agriculture and development. Because of the initial language barrier it took a while to understand the structure of the organization. My understanding is that FIA does very little of their own program implementation. Instead, they focus on local community empowerment. They recruit and identify small- to medium-sized projects throughout the country that align with their mission and then support them with information, connections, or finances. This is an interesting model because although they have the resources to leverage significant control over projects, they do relatively little of this.

My impression is that this way of supporting projects means that local communities are much more invested in the outcome. Not only does it require less operational work on FIA's end, but it simultaneously helps them achieve one of their goals to spread awareness and knowledge on these issues and tools. I also imagine that this model is much more effective, because if projects are self-initiated by local groups or individuals then they are able to more accurately address their local area's needs as opposed to a large national organization coming in to potentially address an insignificant problem. I find this model very fascinating, both because it makes a lot of sense and because it makes me wonder why this isn't the standard in development initiatives across the world."