Saturday, January 27, 2007

About AGDES and Myself

AGDES BLOG is a platform to provide resources to those interested in agriculture and its role in international development. The blog provides a comprehensive list of educational programs on International Development as well as a series of link for those searching international career opportunities and advice. All these as I discuss my take on the latest issues on Agriculture and Rural Development.

AGDES started in early 2006 as a way to express my thoughts on the issues I was interested on; mainly agriculture and rural development but also politics, trade, environment, and gardening. Little by little and thanks to the feedback of many readers, the blog started to become a resource site for students thinking about their future careers, jobs seekers interested in international development, and young professionals looking for advice in their careers. As i try to reach out to many audiences, AGDES is all over the place. One day i use the blog to talk about my garden, another day i use it to express my views on the expansion of soy crops in Brazil. International Development is comprehensive and it will be foolish to try to focus. This generalist approach, i think, is essential to understand development.

Rafael Merchan is a development practitioner specializing in international food security and nutrition. He has over five years of professional experience working for non-governmental organizations, multilateral institutions, and United Nations agencies in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. While most of his experience has been in business development, he has also managed projects and conducted field research. Currently, he is second year graduate student at Columbia University’s School of International Public Affairs (SIPA), pursing a MPA in Development Practice.

More recently, as part of his MPA in Development Practice, Rafael interned for the UN’s World Food Program in Mozambique. He help established an office for a new multi-agency UN initiative that supports countries with high burdens of stunting in the scale up of nutrition interventions. He also developed a mapping tool to support provinces in the design of nutrition implementation plans.

Rafael was born and raised in Colombia where from early on he developed a special connection to farming and rural development. After obtaining his high-school degree, he moved to the U.S. to continue his studies in agriculture and natural resource economics at the University of Maryland in College Park. During his college years, Rafael designed an inter-disciplinary curriculum taking classes in various subjects related to agriculture. He also interned at the US Department of Agriculture and conducted a research project in urban gardening in Maseru, Lesotho.

Rafael graduated with honors in May 2006 and moved to Nicaragua to work with the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). FAO was promoting the use of school gardens to tackle food insecurity and he was asked to assess the impact of such program. During six months Rafael conducted a cost-benefit analysis, collecting data from more than 40 schools in Northern Nicaragua.

He returned to Washington D.C. to work for the Intern American Development Bank as a research fellow in the Inter-American Institute for Economic and Social Development (INDES). In this capacity, he facilitated a series of workshops on socio-economic themes tailored to Latin American leaders.

Looking for opportunities that could bring him closer to the field, in 2009 Rafael started working for Fabretto Children’s Foundation. Fabretto is an international NGO that offers hope and opportunity to low income children from underserve rural and urban communities in Nicaragua. He oversaw fundraising efforts in the U.S., preparing grant proposals for government agencies, multilateral organizations, and corporate and family foundations. During his three years at Fabretto, Rafael secured several milestone grant awards, including a multi-million proposal from USDA and Fabretto’s first grant from the World Bank’s Development Marketplace Awards. 

Throughout his academic and professional careers Rafael has always been deeply passionate about food security and nutrition, not only at a global perspective but also at an intimate level: He’s an avid gardener with a small plot in a community garden. This hands-on approach to agriculture reflects on his conviction that one must experience things to truly understand them. And while gardening as a hobby is very different from a farmer growing food to feed a family, Rafael’s experience has allowed him to understand what the plight of millions of people in rural areas is and how to better respond to their needs. 


s.staiger said...

Hi Rafael,

I am Simone Staiger working for CIAT in Cali. Great initiative your blog and greetings from your country

ANJO said...

Hi Rafael,

Greetings from the Philippines.

I am Anjo Ayco. President of Small Farmers and Land Tillers Association of the Philippines. Your blog will definitely be of great help to other persons who is at the same interested in agriculture like you. I hope that we might be able to exchange ideas and insights in agriculture. My e-mail ad is

SCW said...


Very interesting and helpful site. I am also in the process of investigating interdisciplinary graduate programs emphasizing rural agricultural development, narrowed down to Davis IAD and Cornell IARD. I'll take a look at the additional programs you've listed. If you're interested here's a database I keep documenting useful tropical plant and tree species I work with in both rural and urban environs.

AfricanFarmer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AfricanFarmer said...

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