The University of Waterloo is ranked as one of the top Canadian universities for hands-on and experiential learning, supported by our world-renowned co-op program, international exchange programs, and overseas field placements.The experiences you gain through these programs can either be marked as another means for gaining a credit or, with great passion and unfaltering dedication, they can be a door to immeasurable growth and personal development.
Courtney Lang graduated UWaterloo in April 2017 with a degree in International Development and spent her fourth year in Nepal where she worked as a documentation officer for the Nepal Agricultural Co-operative Central Federation Limited (NACCFL), a non-profit organization catered towards providing small farmers with non-financial support.
I was excited at the chance to learn more about agriculture and the cooperative framework utilized by small farmers in Nepal.
Her job required her to conduct interviews with small farmers and gather data to assess their enduring needs. After speaking with them, she discovered that farmers met great difficulties with marketing and selling their products to consumers. Ignited by her desire to help small farmers, combined with her own background knowledge, she created a new program that would help alleviate some of these problems.
Inspired by her past experience working with Foodlink Waterloo Region, she successfully pitched ideas to NACCFL’s management, and with the help of their guidance and resources, she established a program called Kisan Ko Poko.
This initiative sought to connect small farmers from the rural villages of Nepal with consumers in the capital city, Kathmandu Valley. Her main objective was to give farmers’ access to new markets and opportunities for selling their products, while also fostering fairer prices for both farmers and consumers for local and high-quality products.
In order to get the farmers’ products on the central market, the NACCFL would use their pre-existing transportation channels to get the products from remote villages, and transfer them to the Kathmandu Valley. These products are then uploaded to their online store and food subscription service. They are also stocked in a retail store for sale.
Courtney’s program took off, and was documented in Nepal’s newspaper, Kantipur; even catching the attention of the Minister of the Ministry of Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation in Nepal.
Like most students who embark on a new co-op job or field placement, it can be a daunting task to take initiative– especially when you’re settling in a foreign country. Although Courtney made her mark within the organization, she certainly shared these sentiments.
For me, I found myself lost in the middle of my placement. I felt like I had come all the way from the other side of the world to help and I just didn’t feel like I was doing enough.
However, Courtney’s experience exemplifies that with hard work and dedication, not only will your voice be heard – it will matter, and it can even spark change.
My motto is: Wish it. Dream it. Do it. The success of the Kisan Ko Poko program is proof to me that if I set my mind towards wanting to help change the world for the better- it’s within reach!
UWaterloo provides a realm of endless professional opportunities for students. These experiences can be more than just another block on your résumé. Although it can be scary to take the reins in an unfamiliar place, the results can be as rewarding for you as they are useful for your organization. Use your passion and background knowledge to make the most of your placements – you never know where it’ll take you!
The Kisan Ko Poko program continues to run today, providing tremendous help to the farmers of the NACCFL. Courtney plans to return to Nepal to continue her work and further develop the program.