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The Feed the Future Egypt Rural Agribusiness Strengthening Project Intern Program: A Launchpad for Success
Hossam Salah started out as a quality control officer at a major horticulture export and import company, after he graduated from Minya University’s Faculty of Agriculture. He then served as a field coordinator for a leading company in good agricultural practices compliance. It was only after his internship with the Feed the Future Egypt Rural Agribusiness Strengthening Project, though, that he got the job of his dreams: a food safety inspector for the National Food Safety Authority (NFSA).
“Working for a key governmental body like NFSA that aims to protect the health of the consumer by ensuring that the food available in the market meets the highest safety and health standards is all that I could ask for,” Salah says. “It is a turning point in my career and a huge step in the right direction.”
The goal of the Feed the Future Egypt Rural Agribusiness Strengthening Project, begun in 2018, is to strengthen the horticulture sector in Upper Egypt and the Delta by helping industry actors—including farmers—better understand and respond to demand in more lucrative local and international markets. By prioritizing opportunities for smallholder farmers, youth, and women, the Project is also contributing to increased inclusivity in the horticulture sector.
A key vehicle for this is the Project’s internship program, which equips recent graduates from agricultural technical schools with technical, leadership, and marketing skills that prepare them for the local job market, e.g., working with pack houses and processors that seek to upgrade their operations.
“Partnerships with agricultural universities and technical schools are helping to build the next generation’s agricultural workforce,” says Dr. Walid Sallam, who leads the Project in Egypt. “The internship program provides extensive training on soft skills like interviewing for jobs and preparing CVs, writing, critical thinking, and problem solving. We also discuss topics including production, post-harvest handling, marketing, food safety, gender, and nutrition.”
Nermin El Noby, a 27-year-old graduate of South Valley University in Qena, also benefitted from an internship with the Project. After graduating, she worked at the Esna Pack House in Luxor, sorting and packing produce. But since completing the internship, the pack house hired her as a quality engineer. “University education alone is not enough to attain the skills needed to obtain a decent job,” she says. Now she knows about cold chain and refrigeration, mango specifications, and required export standards. In addition, she says, “I learned life skills to better communicate, negotiate, and become a leader in my work and life decisions.”
For Mohamed Fathy, the path to a career in food safety went through an online post about the Project. He had graduated from the Faculty of Agriculture at Damanhour University, and the internship “sharpened my knowledge and enhanced my skill set,” he says. He now is the head of food safety and quality assurance at a respected dairy-products company.
With the additional income from their new jobs, both. El Noby and. Fathy have been able to pursue post-graduate education that should help them secure higher income jobs in the future. El Noby has applied for a Master’s degree in animal production, and Mr. Fathy completed a food safety certification course and is pursuing his Master’s degree in Functional Food at Cairo University.
The internship served as an important complement for Omnia Borrai’s studies at Minya University. “The training provided me with the ideal platform to kick-start my career,” she says. She is one of three female Project interns hired as engineers by Daltex, a leading exporter of fresh fruits and vegetables to more than 35 countries. “The internship program opened doors for me and placed me on the first step of an exciting journey,” the 22-year-old technical process engineer for grapes says.
The Project will continue to train recent agricultural technical school and university graduates and connect them with agribusiness employers through its internship program.
“This Project’s internship program is building graduates’ skills and directly contributing to the Sustainable Development Strategy: Egypt Vision 2030 by reducing the unemployment gap,” said Dr. Sallam. “We are making good progress towards the Project’s goal of creating 12,000 sustainable jobs in agribusiness by 2023 – the future is bright.”