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Hatim Rijal

MSc(Agr) in Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development, UCD

Hatim received a fellowship to study in Ireland in 2020-21.

Before coming to Ireland, I was working as a Forest Inspector for six years at the Forests National Corporation (FNC) – South Darfur office - Sudan. My main responsibility within the FNC is to ensure the attainment of the overall objective of creating sustainable livelihood opportunities for the local community through better afforestation, forest production and marketing linkage. As part of my work, I conduct workshops for local people to raise awareness of the importance of environment and forests. Furthermore, I am always keen to undertake voluntary work. I have been involved in different local youth group initiatives that worked towards reducing the rates of hunger, diseases and illiteracy in our local communities. I also co-founded two youth-led organisations which work towards educating and raising awareness about environment-related issues.

I chose my course as nearly 85% of the Sudanese population is involved in subsistence agriculture. However, a lack of knowledge of productivity, income-enhancing practices and opportunities for smallholder farmers to access markets has created constraints on livelihood development. I want to contribute towards improving the lives of rural people. I can utilise the skills and knowledge acquired during my studies to build appropriate training programmes to prepare the rural population for a better and sustainable agricultural future. So far, I have undertaken many relevant modules. I have particularly enjoyed both the strategic communication and sustainable agriculture modules as they have encouraged me to think critically and more broadly. Moreover, this master’s has mixed the social, economic, and environmental pillars of sustainability, which I think is excellent as it gives the big picture when dealing with the many issues.

Moving from the Savanah climate, which is hot and humid, to temperate weather, is a giant leap. My first few days were quite challenging. I was adjusting to the new environment, language and culture while the COVID-19 restrictions where in place. However, I adapted very quickly. One thing that has helped me is that I make sure to check the weather forecast every day in case I need to bring an umbrella or gloves. It seems that rain never stops here in Ireland! Luckily, it is just a few showers, not heavy ones. When I return home, I am going to miss the UCD campus and most importantly the basketball court and student sport centre. During the unprecedented times which COVID-19 has brought, these facilities are my favourite spots to keep up my good mental health and to be energetic. I also found it a good way of making friends.

I intend to contribute to enhancing the delivery of the FNCs’ programmes through the implementation of the rural livelihood analysis framework which I have learned during my studies. In the future, I will continue learning through pursuing a PhD in the field of development. In the long-run, I hope to pursue a career in one of the leading agricultural development NGOs. I also hope to start a profitable agricultural business to help the economic growth of the local community.

Sudan has vast arable lands and a variety of natural resources, yet this has not been reflected in the overall development of the country. I hope to see a shift in thinking. The young people have ambitions for a better future and a dedication to serve the country. I am very pleased that many young Sudanese are pursuing their postgraduate studies abroad, which to me is a positive indicator for the future of my country. As the great famous African leader Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon that can change the world.” 

The Ireland–Africa Fellows Programme is one of the most prestigious global schemes. I am so grateful for the opportunity it has given me to study in Ireland. I have made long-lasting friendship with Irish classmates. As I was actively applying for the past six years or so, I came to realise that it is never too late to follow your dreams. This has become my advice to everyone who is passionate about studying abroad. Indeed, I already recommended this fellowship before I even came to Ireland and I will continue recommending it upon my departure to my country through networking and workshops about my experience in Ireland.