From Savo to development collaboration in Tanzania
I’m a native of the Savo region in eastern Finland, have grown up in the middle of the forest and always enjoyed the great outdoors. My path out of Savo took me to our neighbouring region, North Karelia, where I studied forest husbandry. When I started college, I couldn’t even imagine where forestry would take me. I studied Finnish forest husbandry, and the whole time I thought about my future career plans, which I never managed to spell out for myself, let alone form a clear vision of what I wanted to passionately work at after graduation.
Towards the end of college, I decided to try something completely different. I applied, and was accepted, to study abroad as an exchange student, first in Ghana and then in Kenya. These experiences in Africa gave me just a glimpse of forest husbandry in developing countries, but they sparked a passion in me for working with international forestry, particularly in developing countries.
“Our land — strawberry, their land — bilberry”
This Finnish proverb, which refers to the difference between home and abroad, comes from the times of slash-and-burn agriculture, when it was a rough rule of thumb once used by farmers to determine land ownership. Since then, Finnish agriculture has developed, and Finnish forestry competence is now top-class globally. Finnish forests are also managed sustainably, so there is no fear of us losing our green gold. The situation is different in developing countries, where insufficient knowhow combined with poverty lead to solutions which are harmful for the forests. Thankfully, our understanding has increased and we now know that other countries’ ‘bilberries’ are just as important as our own country’s ‘strawberries’, and that through collaboration we can achieve a better result for everyone.
Crisp, snowy Finnish winters
In Finland, I love our seasons above all else: the energetic spring, the joyous summer, the calm autumn and the crisp winter. I would not want to give up a single one of them, as they are all harmoniously balanced, and our forests and nature are used to this cycle. When it comes to forests, though, we cannot just stare out of our own window at our forest view and say all is well when a forest harvested on the other side of the world has an effect on global warming and the snowy winters we are used to here at home.
A bridge from Savo to the world
So, I wanted to make my own contribution to help secure the future Finnish winters. With this in mind, I started building a bridge from Savo to the world. I didn’t have a peer network that could offer me tips on how to do this, so without any guides I built my own bridge, one that would eventually be strong enough to take me to Tanzania in eastern Africa.
After gaining my degree in forest husbandry, I kept studying and gained practical experience of working in the Finnish forestry sector. I thought that for my own professional skills, I simply had to see first how the forestry sector operates, particularly on the ground, before even trying to get a job abroad. Finally, I felt ready to take the next step on my career path, but to find out what my career opportunities were, I joined a mentoring programme where a professional experienced in forestry in the developing world was able to give me tips.
The mentoring gave me a better view of the world of development collaboration, and I found out that development collaboration projects also have opportunities for younger specialists. The role of Junior Expert does not require extensive foreign experience or a long CV, so it felt like the perfect route for entering the world of development collaboration.
Entering the world of development collaboration
My career goals started to materialize when FCG chose me as an international Junior Expert for its Tanzanian Forestry and Value Chain Development project, which aims to promote the sustainable use of virgin forests and increase villagers’ opportunities for earning a living from the forests. Then the pandemic started, which delayed my departure, but now I’ve been here for six months. The time has flown by, and I’ve been full of enthusiasm, as there are so many new things. The work is extremely interesting, varied and challenging. What’s more, a new society and culture add new dimensions to my life.
Development collaboration is a world of its own, one I, at least, wasn’t able to learn everything about in advance. As a Junior Expert I get to learn the ropes, and I wasn’t expected to be a seasoned professional in the field as soon I got here. Hopefully, my own motivation and desire to learn will help me do this job well and stand me in good stead in future, too, after this project is over.
The photo of this blog post is by Kijani Consult Tanzania.