Meet the Staff: Astrid Alvarez

Astrid Alvarez, a 48-year-old Colombian programme officer, lives with her niece in the capital Bogotá. However, she also enjoys life in the countryside; as a child, her favourite way to spend her holidays was on her grandparents' farm.

How long have you been working for SWISSAID?

For 20 years.

What does your work involve?

I am an agronomist. At SWISSAID, I help indigenous, afro-Colombian or peasent-farming grassroots organisations to plan and carry out projects.

Why do you work for SWISSAID?

I enjoy development work; setting programmes up, cooperating with grassroots organisations and strengthening local communities. SWISSAID does not simply hand a project to the people and implement it. The projects are always self-help projects which are marked out and performed by the local villagers.

What do you particularly enjoy about your work?

I enjoy being in contact with people and I enjoy the work in the field. Our work is also essential because if it were not for us, no-one would do it. SWISSAID operates in regions of Colombia which other organisations would never set foot in.

Where do the challenges lie?

The work at SWISSAID is very varied. It is impossible for one person to cover the full range of specialisms. We are frequently confronted with new questions and are delighted whenever we manage to engage the services of external specialists in specific cases.

What do you enjoy doing most in your spare time?

I love getting out and about and finding out about new things. I was devastated when I was involved in a bad accident in a bus on a project trip and was unable to walk for months. I genuinely feared that I would not be able to keep doing my work. However, I am back on my feet again now after numerous operations. 

What do you dream of?

One day I would like to produce aromatic oils on my farm that I co-own with a few friends. However, to do that I would either have to buy more land or bring my neighbours on board to get them to grow fragrant roses and other aromatic plants for us.

Your final comment?

SWISSAID's work is helping to advance the cause of peace in Colombia. For example, by creating opportunities for young people, women and men to making a living from the land. This boosts the individual's and the community's sense of self-esteem and aids the cause of gender equality. We highlight inequality and show what can be done to counter it because without good prospects and without equality peace in the countryside and in Colombia on the whole is inconceivable.