Insights of a Diaspora Expert
Due to the pandemic, we started facilitating virtual Connecting Diaspora for Development assignments instead of physical ones. A recent participant, Salem Agboyinu, proves that virtual interaction does not impede knowledge transfer. In fact, her passion and knowledge practically jump off the screen!
Salem Agboyinu is a Plant Scientist and Horticulturist whose goal is to make a positive impact on global food systems. “I studied Plant sciences and majored in horticulture at the Federal University of Agriculture in Abeokuta, Nigeria. Then, I obtained a master’s degree from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. I found out about the CD4D programme through conversations with a colleague. I think it is impressive that IOM provides a platform for the diaspora to be involved in the development of our home countries. I saw the assignment as an opportunity to make an actual impact in a country I deeply care about.”
Salem is currently working on a virtual CD4D assignment and dedicated some of her time to give us an update about her experiences so far. “We have had informative sessions about tomato seed breeding. All the challenges that come with virtual interactions as anticipated proved to be no deterrent to knowledge exchange. The participating breeders of Tarka Sarwuan University in Makurdi showed great interest and enthusiasm in the programme. We discussed general challenges the breeders faced and specific ones to tomato breeding. Together, we are designing a breeding programme towards the release of a new tomato variety that is resistant to sclerotia – a common tomato disease in the region. We all have a common interest which unites us: the sustainable development of the agricultural sector of the nation. Through the rest of the assignment, we look forward to finalizing the design of the programme and designing different experiments towards achieving this. We will also explore bioinformatics tools useful to breeding and data analysis using modern software.”
“IOM has put together a great initiative and I believe
its impact will resonate far into the future”
Salem highlights the importance of considering cultural differences in development work. “Sustainable development entails the interaction of many factors. While we are exchanging technical knowledge, there are cultural factors that may or may not facilitate the process”. Diaspora engagement can provide a solution to bridging these cultural factors. “Involving the diaspora encourages smoother knowledge transfer as there is prior knowledge of the home culture. Several times during the training sessions, we spoke languages other than conventional English. This made the interaction more organic and efficient. We also had conversations about socio-economic subjects in the country and how it affects food production.” Diaspora members’ deeper cultural understanding of countries of origin can thus encourage more efficient knowledge exchange, even when the interaction takes place virtually.