Coming June 2022, AFoCO will bid farewell to its first batch of AFoCO Fellowship Officials for 2022. Mr. Abuov Azamat, Ms. Khin Nyein San from Myanmar, Ms. Kittayaporn Jaiarree from Thailand, Mr. Moniz Guilhermino from Timor-Leste, and Mr. Sonam Tashi from Bhutan have contributed their expertise through their involvement in various projects and events and have formed strong bonds with the Secretariat. In an exclusive interview, they share tips and advice for those interested in applying for the AFoCO Fellowship Program.
1. Tell us about yourself!
“I am Abuov Azamat, the chief expert of the Forestry and Wildlife Committee of the Ministry of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan. I studied Master of Forestry Sciences, currently studying for a PhD in land management. My goal in AFoCO Secretariat program is to improve my knowledge in the forest field. I would like to contribute to the preservation of our planet for the future generation, and AFoCO is a good initiative for Asian countries to develop the forest sector and exchange experience. I applied in order to gain work experience in an international organization and study the experience of Asian countries in the field of forestry.”Abuov Azamat, Development and Evaluation Team
“My name is Khin Nyein San. I have been working as a government staff in the Forest Department of Myanmar for 11 years. I graduated from the University of Forestry and Environmental Science (UFES) Myanmar and went on to pursue my Master’s in Natural Resources Management from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in 2017. I chose this field of study because I am very passionate about biodiversity conservation and sustainable forest management. After graduation, I spent the last four years working for my department as a technical assistant for International Conventions, ASEAN Working Groups, and biodiversity conservation-related projects. I applied for the Fellowship Program because I thought it would be an excellent opportunity for me to work in a learning and challenging environment, utilize my skills and knowledge to the best of my abilities while contributing to the growth of the international forestry cooperation.”Khin Nyein San, RETC Team
“My name is Kittayaporn Jaiarree. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from the faculty of forestry at Kasetsart University in Thailand. Currently, I work as a forestry officer practitioner level with the Royal Forest Department. My main responsibility is to promote private land reforestation & afforestation. I support stakeholders and provide essential information related to reforestation and afforestation using silviculture methods, law, and marketing. I got to know about the Fellowship Program from my senior, and I applied for it because I thought it would be a great opportunity to gain more career experience.”Kittayaporn Jaiarree, Strategy and Outreach Team
“I am Moniz Guilhermino, from Timor Leste. I work at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and as position “National Coordinator for Sandalwood Development”. I had never dreamed of coming to South Korea, but who would have guessed fate, in February 2021 I was informed from my superior that I would be a participant in the fellowship program at the AFoCO Secretariat. I was very happy to get the opportunity to work at the AFoCO Secretariat because I am very interested in international cooperation in forestry management. I have experience working on project cooperation with international organizations such as FAO and the World Bank. I am thrilled to gain new knowledge about forestry development as a member of AFoCO Secretariat, since the knowledge is a valuable reference for forestry development in Timor Leste.”Moniz Guilhermino, Implementation and Monitoring Team
“I am Sonam Tashi. I studied forestry and worked as a forestry officer in Department of Forestry and Park Services, Royal Government of Bhutan, about 7 years. Life somehow has landed me this profession as forester which is wonderful, serving as protractor of nature and forest, now more important than ever, in this fight against climate change. Applying for this unique Fellowship program in AFoCO gives you wider perspective and also could contribute in small ways in this growing intergovernmental commitment to forest.”Sonam Tashi, Strategy and Outreach Team
2. Describe your main responsibility and some key assignments you were engaged in AFoCO. What did you gain or learn through the Fellowship program so far?
“My main responsibility is to support the coordination and facilitation of training courses organized by AFoCO RETC. During the fellowship program period, I worked together with AFoCO RETC team members and facilitated two online workshops which are organized for government officials from AFoCO member countries. I also supported the review and documentation of research projects cooperating between AFoCO, the National Institute of Forest Science (NIFoS), and member countries. I am also engaged in developing Myanmar’s country profile and climate change report. The AFoCO Fellowship program gave me the opportunity to improve my professional and personal skills through learning-by-doing. The most valuable skills I learned were valuable communication and networking skills.”Khin Nyein San, RETC Team
“I served on the Development and Evaluation Team in AFoCO. My main responsibility was to review project proposals and concept notes submitted by member countries of AFoCO. In addition, I helped to establish partnerships with Kazakhstan. With colleagues in my home country, we are currently developing new projects. The program allowed me to gain extensive experience in developing project documents, as well as fostering cooperation with other international organizations.”Abuov Azamat, Development and Evaluation Team
“My main responsibility in the IM Team in Cooperation and Project Division is to communicate with the Implementing Agency (IA) to facilitate timely implementation and initial arrangement of the project in Timor-Leste. Additionally, I am responsible for writing articles and climate change documentation of Timor-Leste. There are challenges due to the lack of basic information that can be used as a legal reference for documenting weather changes in my country, which hinders the process of drafting the climate change documents. There is a need for further collaboration in Timor Leste in order to facilitate capacity building in the research sector, including climate change detection. Overall, I gained many experiences in communication and improved my English proficiency.”Moniz Guilhermino, Implementation and Monitoring Team
“My main responsibility as a fellowship official is to support the establishment and operation of communication. My key assignments are to finalize Thailand’s country profile, summarize climate change policy in Thailand and take notes at each assigned meeting. In addition, I was assigned to create social media messages and web content about the subtheme sessions at the XV World Forestry Congress. During my Fellowship program, I have improved communication skills, specifically English. Furthermore, I learned how to conduct effective meetings and gained experience in writing a project proposal that includes any suggestions for improving forest management.”Kittayaporn Jaiarree, Strategy and Outreach Team
“Under the Planning and Budget Division, I assisted the strategy and outreach team. Most of my efforts were focused on developing minutes, news bulletins, and supporting tasks related to events organized by AFoCO, including AFoCO Corporate Forum, 6th Session of the AFoCO Assembly, and XV World Forestry Congress. During my fellowship program, I gained sincere friendships with colleagues and discovered we all have similar problems, challenges, and issues in our respective countries. The lesson I learned is that we have to build stronger partnerships, communicate more, and try harder to understand one another so that we can face the dangling global climate change challenge together, rather than staying in our cocoons.”Sonam Tashi, Strategy and Outreach Team
3. What is your most memorable experience while at AFoCO?
“The most memorable experience for me was participating in the 15th World Forest Congress. We organized events within the framework of the WFC. It was nice to realize that we are part of such an event which has great importance for the entire forest sector in the world.”Abuov Azamat, Development and Evaluation Team
“For me, the most memorable experience was mainly with my fellow colleagues while we were working on web article for AFoCO website. We had serveral disagreements while working together, but working together as a team helped us understand each other’s perspective better, and brought us closer together as friends. And of course, I was serendipitously fortunate to attend XV World Forestry Congress which happens only every six years.”Sonam Tashi, Strategy and Outreach Team
“There are many memorable experiences when in AFoCO because this is the first opportunity for me to work in the international organization. I learned a lot about AFoCO’s work process through attending meetings such as the Sixth Special Assembly and Monthly Meeting as well as the XV World Forestry Congress. These were such a chance to learn more about forestry field from best practices in each sector, indeed that helps broaden forestry perspectives and also opportunities.”Kittayaporn Jaiarree, Strategy and Outreach Team
“As a Fellowship in the AFoCO secretariat, I had the opportunity to participate in the World Forestry Congress activities, that I never expected to be involved in. The most memorable experience is sharing experiences with other Fellowship colleagues about respective forestry development and gain valuable insights.”Moniz Guilhermino, Implementation and Monitoring Team
“My most memorable experience working in AFoCO is facilitating the “Capacity Building Workshops” via an online platform together with my RETC Team members. We worked together, supported each other, and built a strong teamwork to have a successful workshop. These workshops provided me with opportunities to improve my moderating skills and to develop new ideas for facilitating future workshops and training in my country. After completing the program, I have plans to utilize my skills and experiences in the best possible way to support Myanmar Forest Department’s goals.”Khin Nyein San, RETC Team
4. Do you have any tips for future Fellowship Officials?
“My working tip for future fellowship officials is to learn as much as you can during your stay in AFoCO Secretariat because the AFoCO Fellowship Program is a place that assists aspiring individuals who are looking for career or personal development. As a seafood lover, I strongly recommend going to Noryangjin Fish Market to buy fresh fish and seafood. For sightseeing, I recommend Yanghwa Hangang Park for a picnic, Gyeongbokgung Palace for the Hanbok experience, and the Hwadam Botanical Garden to connect yourself with the beauty of nature.”Khin Nyein San, RETC Team
“In addition to English language skills, learn a few Korean vocabularies and find general information before arriving Seoul such as seasons, culture, food, and history because that will make you enjoy living in Korea more.”Kittayaporn Jaiarree, Strategy and Outreach Team
“I especially recommend to adapt to the work environment and get along with other Fellowship Officials. The cost of living is very expensive, so plan your expenses well. The Kakao-Map App or Naver Map will make it easier for you to travel wherever you go.”Moniz Guilhermino, Implementation and Monitoring Team
“I suggest future Fellows to communicate more and plan things to do together since Seoul offers diverse activities and places to visit. It’s always better to have friends to take your photographs! Start buying non-essentials and travelling after knowing the way around. Living expenses can be rather high in Seoul, and good and services are not cheap, so be prepared.”Sonam Tashi, Strategy and Outreach Team
“Before you arrive, set clear goals for yourself what you want to study within the framework of the program, study trips will be formed based on your wishes. I would also advise you to study the culture and history of South Korea before coming and try to visit as many locations as possible every weekend.”Abuov Azamat, Development and Evaluation Team
The AFoCO Fellowship Program welcomes junior government officials of AFoCO member countries who are dispatched to the AFoCO Secretariat for a duration of 6 months to a year to experience working in an international organization. Operated on an annual basis, the AFP aims to establish an effective communication network between member countries and the Secretariat, facilitate close cooperation with member countries, and help improve better understanding of the working environment and procedural matters in order to facilitate the smooth implementation of projects and activities.
Interview and photos by Lee Yeonji, Intern