I found myself on a Sunday afternoon taking pictures of registered participants in the Wharton International Hotel lobby, Nanning, China. These project managers and development experts came from all over Asia and beyond to attend the IFAD Asia-Pacific annual 'performance enhancement jamboree' and many had just stepped off an airplane. They wondered if they couldn't first go up to their rooms and freshen up.
Some were worried about taking their eyes off their luggage to pose for the photograph. "Are you happy to be here?" I frequently asked my subjects and received the smile that I was looking for.
The participants of the event take their jobs seriously and rightfully so. They are gathering for the next three days to talk about project achievements, challenges and performance in the region over the last performance year. The division can boast a record disbursement amount of USD 177 million according to it's 2009/2010 portfolio review. That's big bucks for agricultural development in Asia and the Pacific.
We are not talking about women and men that sit behind a desk all day. The participants are our modern day development champions. They manage IFAD funded projects in the field. They work with farmers, trainers, agricultural experts and local governments to name a few. These are the people that get their hands dirty, who work in challenging conditions and who believe in what they do. Their knowledge and experience is precious and they want to share it with each other.
Asia and Pacific Division Director, Thomas Elhaut, welcomed participants and told them "the event has moved from a portfolio performance workshop to a knowledge sharing event. Our annual event has become your event. You have taken charge, and we are happy facilitators".
Going back through the photographs I took, I can see the passion and determination in the participant's faces. The event is about them and I can't wait to hear more about what they have to share.