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Laughs in the office: Taking a chance on the young

As part of our Youth Strategy, the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems encourages, empowers  and engages young people to acquire critical skills in scientific research and science communication in order to shine the spotlight on some of the most pressing global issues faced in drylands – such as climate change, poverty, food and nutrition security, gender equality, and land and environmental sustainability.  We work with many research and developments partners in the field, including the Young Professionals for Agriculture Development (YPARD) and the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) to provide young people living in rural drylands with better educational, technical and entrepreneurial skills and opportunities.

In addition, our program works to create more equitable, diversified and inclusive social networks for young people to become proactively involved in innovation mechanisms and processes to improve and transform drylands agricultural livelihoods for generation to come.

We have recently launched an ambitious internship program in our headquarters in Amman, Jordan for young people aspiring a career in science and international development in drylands and elsewhere. Here, we bring you a quick snapshot of some some these amazing and talented young people who have infused our offices with much thirst and excitement about gaining and applying new skills and knowledge whilst working along our scientists and partners

José José Posligua Molina 

José José Posligua Molina

José is a third year agronomy student at EARTH University in Costa Rica, so naturally he loves the sea, nature, and water sports. Jose was attracted to this internship because he is passionate about production in dry areas; his hometown of Manta in Ecuador is in an arid area. In the future he would like to work as a consultant  to improve the technology present in his home community.

How does your workat the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems align with your beliefs?

“I believe to generate change we need to change ourselves, which is why I want to grow personally and professionally working in a new and challenging environments.”

Well this is a great start, José



Fajr Fradi 

Fajr Fradi

Fajr is a student focusing on Agronomy in the National Agronomic Institute of Tunis. In addition to her science background with a focus on agriculture, Fajr loves to spend her free time painting. She is a huge art lover!  

What attracted you to apply to the GIS internship with Dryland Systems?

“The theme of land conservation is of huge importance to me. The technical aspects of drylands research will open my eyes further to the challenges facing these areas and help me work to fix them in the future.”

We don’t doubt you will, Fajr! 




Job de Vries

Job de Vries

Job is from Amsterdam, Netherlands. At the moment he is successfully working through his thesis for his Earth surface and Water Masters at Utrecht University. In his spare time he plays a Dutch version of basketball, called Korfball, which seems like good fun! Due to the abundance of canals in the Netherlands he’s also forced to use sailing boats every now and then, especially when the sun is out. Not a bad life, Job!

If you could have any super-power, what would your superpower be?

"If I had a flying superpower, my specialization in geo-hazards and remote sensing for my Masters would be so much easier, just like my thesis. But still waiting for that to happen!"

Wishing you the best luck with your thesis, Job! We’re sure you’re going to sail it successfully.

Valerio Graziano

Valerio Graziano 

Born in Salerno, south of Italy, Valerio graduated in Oriental and African Languages and Cultures at University of Naples “L’Orientale”, studying Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew. A man of many crafts,  Valerio has studied and acted in theater since childhood.The most interesting activity in his internship experience so far has been supporting the Facilitation activity during the Global Land Outlook Writeshop, held in Amman 11-12-13 of April. Here Valerio met experts in the field of Sustainable Land Management, focusing on problem setting, problem solving, and examining different roles in a multilayered discussion.

How does your work here align with your career aspirations?

"My internship at Dryland Systems has actually helped me explore and better understand something more about my own career aspirations. I have been fascinated by and I am now determined to focus more on the intersection of Research and Science Communication, and their interactions as two interdependent fields."

We’re so glad we could help, Valerio!



Martina Antonucci

Martina Antonucci

Martina Antonucci studied Soil and Enviornmental Sciences in Wageningen University, Netherlands. She is originally from Padova, Italy. Martina not only loves to travel, but she can give you a run for your money on the basketball court. At 1.8 meters, she is more than likely to win a match. Martina also loves photography and art. Most importantly, she makes a great espresso, which is more reason to love having her in the office.

What do you find fascinating about this internship?

"I have always wanted to do an internship with a CGIAR research program.  I find it very rewarding to be part of a great organization and fantastic network of scientists and partners that work together to deal with some the world’s pressing issues. The CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems links together my major interests and passions: agriculture, environment, and people."

We’re glad to have you, Martina! 

Marah Al Malalha

Marah Al Malalha

Marah Al Malalha is a Palestinian-New Zealander. As if that wasn’t cool enough, she grew up in the United Arab Emirates and studied Chemistry at the University of Manchester. Now Marah lives in Jordan and leads the Drylands Systems Communications Internship Program as the Intern-in-Chief. Marah is quite well-versed in everything from organic free-trade products, places to visit in Amman, and intercultural friendships. If she could have any super-power she’d be able to say no to chocolate.

What time in history would you like to experience?

"I’d go back to a time where the environment remained untainted so I could prevent the crisis of today by emphasizing sustainable practices early on and we’d have less to fix now."

Marah we know you will still manage to reverse this situation!



Marthe Wens 

Marthe (1)
Marthe Wens 

Marthe is a 2016 university graduate from Belgium. She studied Physical Geography with a specialization in GIS and Earth Observation at the KU Leuven and VU Brussels. Her master thesis took her to the remote dry areas of Ethiopia, where she had the opportunity to get into contact with local farmers and the warmth of rural families. Lively and constantly pushing herself, Marthe did gymnastics growing up and now loves to spend her holidays hiking and exploring the world. 

Where do you think this internship will take you?

"By having studied for 5 years, I felt the urge to put some theory into practice. I hope the internship will give me the opportunity to get into contact with other scientists. By discussing with others and learning-by-doing, I want to further develop my skills, explore my own career aspirations, and be inspired by those around me."  

We’re very happy to have your positive energy and skills (and Belgium chocolates) in the office, Marthe! 





Zaib un nisa at Nathiagali

Zaibunnisa is an alumni of the National University of Science and Technology in Pakistan. She specialized on Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System with an interest in natural resource management. She likes to spend her time travelling, especially to places rich in wildlife as birds are the source of her utmost inspiration. If she could have any super power, she’d love to fly and continue exploring along her favorite animals.

Where do you think this internship will take you?

"I truly feel lucky to be working as a GIS intern in CGIAR research program on Dryland systems at ICARDA, Amman. This program is exposing me to advanced SLM technologies and practices pertaining to innovative agricultural development and poverty reduction that have tremendous potential for bringing radical change in global markets of agriculture products, and ultimately to world economy. I hope this experience will enable me to develop information systems of similar kinds in forests, natural hazards, climate, and glaciers, helping me shape a better future."

We are quite confident you will achieve your goal, Zaibunnisa! 


Pietro Bartolini


Pietro Bartolini

Pietro is a recent graduate from The Universty of Florence with a degree on tropical Rural Development. His thesis focused on coffee production in Guatemala, making him a perfect addition to the team here at Drylands—we are experts on rural development and on the perfect cup of coffee! Pietro loves history, traveling, reading and trekking. We are looking forward to discussing all of the above with him.   

Where do you think this internship will take you?

"This opportunity is the start of an international career. Working for the CGIAR Research Program on dryland systems is a huge opportunity to test my individual abilities and my collaborative skills. Furthermore, this is the first work experience in my field of studies and I am confident it well help me understand what exactly I want in  the future. Everyone should work to make our world a better place, and the improvement of agriculture in dryland areas is a very significant challenge I hope to add to"

Can’t wait to see all your future work, Pietro! 

Ejona Bakalli

Blog Photo EB
Ejona Bakalli 

Ejona is a recent graduate from Boston College, where she studied Philosophy and Islamic Civilizations and Societies. She spends lots of time talking about both to anyone who is willing listen. Ejona loves to travel and try new foods. A true New Yorker, she prides herself in her ability to eat all food, even the bad kind she makes. She loves rap music and poetry and writes a bit of both. Although a dreamer, she’s not quitting her day job to be a rapping poet anytime soon.

What has been your favorite internship assignment so far whilst at the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems?

I have really loved talking to people and developing different communication pieces for two global communication campaigns on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and now on World Youth Skills day.  Writing this piece was quite fun and also exciting to get to know a little better the other young people like me who are part of the Dryland Systems internship program.  I’m really looking forward to working will all the remarkable scientists –both young and experienced - here at Dryland Systems !” 




About the author

This blog was assembled and edited by Ejona Bakalli, the Science Communications intern at the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems.