Friday, September 26, 2008

The seventh day

Hi everyone,

Yesterday we had both lunch and dinner at home for the first time. We had been going to the restaurant for lunch, and having some snack in the evening (the portions served at the restaurant are massive so that combined with the heat it doesn’t leave you that hungry in the evening), but we went to the supermarket the day before so we could cook. It was nice to be able to just relax at home, and in the evening it was fun to be cooking in the kitchen with the other two interns, and then have dinner altogether.

Seth is American and is also interning at the WFP, as part of his Masters, and Tcherno is from Senegal and is doing research for his PhD at the ‘Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement’. Their exchanges are pretty funny, including some discussions on the differences between American and African girlfriends :p Tcherno was also proud to show us the ‘boubou’ (dress for a man, kind of like a djellabah in the Middle East) he had made especially for the end of Ramadan celebration, Eid-el-Fitr.

Unfortunately, we still don’t have any work at the office. We did have our security briefing today (in the main UN building in Ouaga, which is bigger and more formal than the WFP offices), and yesterday we had a talk with Brigitte, the lady in charge of regional food procurement (i.e. buying), so that was something to do, but we are definitely looking forward to real work. The talk with Brigitte was very interesting though. When it was conceived (1960s), the WFP basically just used food surpluses donated by developed countries, and distributed them in developing countries; now however, developed countries still donate some ‘in kind’ (i.e. food) but mainly in cash, which is used to buy food within developing countries too. There are some quality criteria of course, and once those are satisfied the WFP will buy where the price is the lowest. They buy cereals and beans in Burkina Faso for example, and salt in Senegal. This not only lowers transport costs if it is then distributed in the region, but it also contributes to supporting the local economy. The process is a careful one though- if the country has had a bad year for crops for instance, and there is thus less food available, they might not buy there that year, because their added demand would raise the price, making it harder for the local population to afford the food.

We’re going to have similar talks with the heads of logistics and of ‘vulnerability assessment mapping’ (VAM, who assess and map out which regions are vulnerable in terms of access to food and to what extent, so that it can then be decided where WFP should intervene). It’s very nice to get a better and more concrete understanding of all the operations that go on in order to carry out the different programmes I talked about in a previous post.

That’s about it for now, not much else going on. It’s odd to read the news, like the crisis in the United States (or the Belgian government actually), because it all feels so far away. The days here are relaxed (even for the people who actually do have work to do), and life is simple. Lizards crawl on the walls- both outside and inside- the rooster wakes everyone up at 4:30 am (!), a smiling boy sells us a daily baguette (for which there is luckily no haggling, food is more straightforward), Muslim men line up on the sidewalk to pray, women and children carry fruits or cakes on their heads, babies are wrapped on the back of their mothers, scooters, bicycles, and cars of all ages huff and puff and zoom on the roads, wealthy women, in their high heels, shiny dresses and polished jewellery, leave a trail of perfume behind them, the internet is slow and I have yet to see a tv. It is different, sometimes surprising, sometimes a little ‘scary’ (for lack of a softer word), but Kathrin and I are taking it all in quite relaxed (and careful, for the worrying ones).

You can read her blog too by the way- I’ll also put the other interns’ links on the ‘links’ part- we are six to take part in this TNT/WFP/AIESEC Global Experience Programme, there is another pair in Madagascar, and another in Zambia… maybe I should have started by explaining that! Next time a few words on how cool the programme is then, some shameless marketing ;).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Alix...

I have just read all your stories. They sound very interesting and adventurous. I hope you have a nice, instructive, safe, amazing and unforgettable stay.

Best regards,


October 1, 2008 12:13 PM  

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