News: Behind the Scenes of a UNFAO Internship, July 2017

After a six-month internship at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO), Jana Phan, PhD Candidate at The University of Adelaide shared her experiences and lessons from her time in Rome, Italy.

Being placed at the Secretariat of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resource for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), Jana said the opportunity enabled her to explore and understand what it meant to work with Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA) for sustainable development and a food secure world. With four focus areas including: information systems through the Global Information System and the Multilateral System; Farmers’ Rights; Sustainable Use; and the Benefit-sharing Fund, an internship at the ITPGRFA enabled Jana to work across a diverse set of activities regarding the access to and benefit sharing of PGRFA.

“My time at the Treaty Secretariat was an invaluable learning experience; coming from a fundamental science background, I had no previous experience or knowledge of what it would be like to work ‘outside of the lab’,” Jana said.

Having a background that wasn’t directly related to this work ended up benefiting the Treaty’s Secretariat in ways that weren’t originally intended, with Jana identifying an area of opportunity for the Secretariat to produce more accessible communication materials for external stakeholders, including donors to the Benefit-sharing Fund; contract parties; farming communities; and the general public. Working across the focus areas also meant that Jana had some particularly eye-opening realisations about the status of many of the world’s gene banks and the reality of how challenging it can be to coordinate and execute work in multilateral environments.

This experience hasn’t deterred her though. When asked about her plans for her future Jana expressed a keen interest in diving right into the complex world of international development and multilateral partnerships.

“My internship at the UNFAO has exceeded my initial expectations. The position enabled me to apply my skills and training as a fundamental scientist into another field of work i.e. one outside of the ‘wet-lab environment’ and consequently explore alternative career paths.”

“A direct outcome from this experience is that my interest to work in the field of international development has become more concrete and I now wish to actively steer my career post PhD into this area of work.”

Having completed her internship with UNFAO in December 2016, Jana is now working part-time with the Treat Secretariat to develop educational models addressing Famers’ Rights and the sustainable use of PGRFA.

“The opportunity to live and work at the UNFAO has literally been life changing for me, not only have a gained new professional and personal skills, my career ambitions have also taken a new direction as a result of this position.”

Jana was supported throughout her internship by the Crawford Fund South Australian Committee.

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You can read some of Jana’s blog posts published on the UNFAO website: