Peace Corps Volunteer Helps to Double Rice Production in Rural Panama Community through the Peace Corps Partnership Program

February 26, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 26, 2010 Recently returned Peace Corps/Panama volunteer Laura Gregory of Hanford, Calif. worked with the local community she lived and served in to create a sustainable and innovative rice production project that was funded in part by $4800 in donations to
the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP). As a result of the project, Gregorys community was able to double its yearly rice production.

Gregory worked with 35 families in her community who relied on subsistence farming and were unable to earn an income because of their villages isolation. As a sustainable agriculture systems volunteer, Gregory was trained to teach soil conservation techniques to local farmers.

Although Gregorys community had a unique resource of well-constructed rice paddies that allowed farmers to harvest rice three times a year, the communitys antiquated farming techniques were inefficient and limited production. With poor farming tools and a lack of manual labor, the community had more rice paddies than the local workforce could physically farm.

Gregory and her community concluded that implementing a tilling machine would greatly decrease the labor required to prepare rice paddies before planting and increase production. They created a business proposal and solicited funding through the PCPP to purchase a tiller to prepare the soil.

After the tractor was introduced into the community, work that previously consumed a day took only one hour. I saw the towns rice production jump two-fold in one year and growers had more time to dedicate to farming other products, said Gregory. In addition to being able to produce enough rice for their families throughout the year, the town had enough surplus rice to sell outside the community.

Following her 27 month Peace Corps commitment, Gregory extended her service an additional year to serve as a regional leader in Peace Corps Panama. Although she no longer lived in her original community, Gregory was able to return occasionally and witnessed the sustainable changes firsthand. It was stunning to see how well they had maintained the rice production project and the tiller, she said. Gregory also noticed that the production of other crops improved as well. Several farms were expanded to grow greater quantities of food and farmers planted crops such as cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers that normally would not have had time to cultivate.

PCPP allows individuals or groups to donate funds to specific Peace Corps volunteer projects and create lasting partnerships with local communities where Peace Corps volunteers serve around the world. In order for a PCPP project to be funded through the program, a community must make a minimum 25 percent contribution to the total project cost and outline specific success indicators for the project. These requirements help ensure community commitment and project sustainability.

The PCPP website includes an innovative and interactive tool that links donors to specific community-assisted Peace Corps volunteer around the world. These projects often rely on outside, independent financial support to survive. Prospective donors can search for specific projects by the country of service, project type, or a Peace Corps volunteers home state. One hundred percent of each tax-deductible donation goes toward a development project. In-kind contributions, such as computers and school supplies, can also provide valuable support.

To learn more about the Partnership Program or to see other projects currently in need of funds, visit www.peacecorps.gov/donate.

As Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary, its service legacy continues to promote peace and friendship around the world with 7,671 volunteers serving in 76 host countries. Historically, nearly 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 host countries. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment. To learn more about the Peace Corps, please visit our website: www.peacecorps.gov.

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