Agricultural Economics Volunteer

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Project Description

Agricultural activity is the backbone of Cameroonian society and the economy, with 46% of the population living in rural areas (World Bank, 2016); among which women occupy the greatest portion (65%) of those involved in farming. The agricultural landscape is composed of five agro-ecological regions which includes the Soudano-Sahelien, the Guinea Savanna, the bimodal humid forest, the unimodal humid forest and the Western humid highlands.

The work of Peace Corps Cameroon is aligned with the Government of Cameroon’s priority to promote smallholder and family farming. This key component of the Agriculture Project is the Smallholder Integrated Farming System (SIFS). The SIFS methodology targets rural, smallholder farmers and aims to increase the productivity of farming practices through the promotion of integrated systems that involve the deliberate planning and harmonization of different sub components such as staple food crops (cassava, corn, potatoes, plantain, etc.), vegetable gardens, trees (fruits & leguminous) and small animal husbandry (pigs, fish, chicken and/or bees) on the same piece of land in a symbiotic way where each component has reciprocal support and benefit which improve the productivity of the whole system.

Agriculture Economic Volunteers are expected to conduct certain activities throughout their two years of service, regardless of their background in agriculture. This work requires personal motivation, dedication, and resiliency to accomplish the assigned work. Volunteers will be trained in agricultural techniques to make them effective change agents no matter their background.

Primary Areas of Intervention:

1. Farm Planning: Analyze smallholder farming systems and use the information to develop farm management plans. This could include the promotion of small animal husbandry such as poultry housing & management, swine health care and management, bee keeping, or fish farming where feasible (hotter climates in Cameroon with access to water). Volunteers engage in work that will help farmers to increase farm profitability and to diversify agricultural production. This work also includes training farmers on field crop integration and optimization.

2. Technology Transfer: Train individuals or groups of adult farmers in appropriate, climate-smart, small-scale farming techniques or practices, including basic farm business practices.

3. Project Development/Implementation/Evaluation: Assist targeted farmers or farmer groups to identify, plan, implement, and evaluate new or improved farming activities (by integrating vegetable gardening, field crops, small animal husbandry and/or perennial trees) that increase efficiencies in the farming system, as well as, increasing food production and farm income.

Agricultural Economics Work Activities
• Management of vegetable gardens and tree nurseries
• Promotion of best agricultural practices and improved garden production techniques;
• Share food transformation techniques to increase the value to earn income from harvested crops;
• Coach students, youth, women, and farmer groups on income generating activities
• Promote crop production and management
• Share techniques on tree/crop pest and disease management
• Promote tree planting & management
• Promote culturally appropriate gender-equitable norms.

Tasks within the assignment area may vary depending on the assigned site and its location within Cameroon. There are varying climates and geographies that dictate the type of work that can be accomplished. Volunteers will work closely with local agriculture field technicians or counterparts to share and co-transfer skills and knowledge to your community farmers. Your role is that of a trainer, co-planner, and facilitator or change agent of the development process rather than that of a “doer.”

Agricultural Economics Volunteer Tasks
1. Conduct a farming systems assessment using appropriate participatory rural appraisal (PRA) tools.
2. Conduct an assessment of current farm business practices.
3. Employ basic farm business best practices (e.g., general record keeping, profit calculation (input vs output), costing and pricing, budgeting and financial planning).
4. Evaluate results/make an economic analysis of overall farm productivity and profitability.

Cameroon promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. Volunteers will receive training on gender challenges in country and will have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. During service, Volunteers will look for ways to work with community members to promote gender-equitable norms and increase girls’ sense of agency. As part of their work, Volunteers will also report on these efforts and their impact.

Required Skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:

• Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Economics or a degree combining agriculture and management, including agribusiness, agricultural management, farm management

• At least 3 years’ of experience in farm management and/or agribusiness

• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any business or economics discipline with 1 year experience in farming or agribusiness

Desired Skills

Successful candidates will have the following relevant qualifications and qualities:

• Familiarity with agriculture and farm work focusing on vegetable gardening, animal husbandry, and/or integrated agriculture systems

• Five years professional work experience in the field of agriculture economics, agribusiness, agricultural management or farm management

• Desire to work with communities to meet their agro-pastoral needs

• Willingness to work in a team environment as well as be a dedicated self-starter

• Strong communication and interpersonal skills

• Flexibility and willingness to learn new knowledge, skills and attitudes

• Experience in project planning is an added advantage

Required Language Skills

Candidates must meet one or more of the language requirements below in order to be considered for this position.
A. Completed 4 years of high school coursework within the past 8 years in a Romance language
B. Completed a minimum of 2 semesters of college level coursework within the past 6 years in a Romance language
C. Native/Fluent Romance language speaker

Candidates should have either a willingness to take a French course or commitment to self‐study and a subsequent placement test (score of 50 on the French College Level Examination Program CLEP exam or a score of Novice‐High on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL OPI)).

Candidates should have either a willingness to take a French course or commitment to self‐study prior to departure.

French language skills are needed to successfully navigate work and community life. It is also necessary to travel safely and to interact and to communicate effectively in Cameroon. All Volunteers must attain a functional French level by the end of 10 weeks of Pre-Service Training (PST). Some Volunteers will learn a language in addition to French that is widely used in the local community.

It is highly recommended that Invitees take an intensive French course before departing USA. While Cameroon has two official languages: French and English, most Volunteers will speak French, some will also speak Fulfulde and use an additional local language while at site. While language is an important factor in selecting the Volunteer’s site, many other factors come into consideration. Volunteers are expected to be flexible for his/her assignment and give his/her best in order to promote good health practices in Cameroon.

Living Conditions

Cameroon is a wonderful and complex country. It is referred to as “Africa in miniature” due to the variety of ethnic groups, religions, and its geographic diversity. It is also a country in which two of ten regions have English as their official language, and the other eight have French.

Due to the current political unrest in the English speaking regions (Northwest, Southwest, North, and Far North), Volunteer assignments will be in the French speaking regions of Cameroon. These include the West, Adamawa, Centre, East, Littoral, and South. These regions are in the Guinea Savanna, humid forest and Western highlands ecological zones.

Peace Corps/Cameroon has enjoyed uninterrupted service since 1962. Living conditions in Cameroon vary greatly from one Volunteer community to another. Volunteers must be flexible, resilient and willing to live in very modest conditions without electricity, running water, and limited access to the internet.

Cameroon has restrictive laws that target same-sex couples. Same sex acts are punishable by imprisonment. Cameroonians do not identify themselves as LGBTQ due to severe societal stigma. Volunteers will need to be mindful of these cultural norms and Cameroon-specific laws which means that LGBTQ Volunteers cannot serve openly. Peace Corps staff and currently serving Volunteers will share support mechanisms for incoming trainees, provide support to a diverse group of Volunteers. LGBTQ Volunteers serve successfully in Cameroon. Please refer to the Local Laws and Special Circumstances of the U.S. Department of State’s travel page for more information.

Job location - Volunteers will work in a small rural village with limited access to, or an inconsistent supply of electricity and indoor plumbing.

Work Schedule - A typical farming day starts early in the morning (6:00 am and may extend to late afternoon (4:00 pm)) depending on the farm location, farming season, and weather. The work environment will be field-based in a rural location which is different from an office setting.

Cultural Attitudes and Customs in the Workplace - Cultural and linguistic integration is critically important for success as a Volunteer. Accordingly, Volunteers eat local food, speak local language(s), and fully participate in ceremonies such as funerals and weddings.

Dress Code – Appropriate ways of dressing are very important to Cameroonians. As a farm planner, coordinator and facilitator, you will have to be mindful about the way you dress and your dress code will vary depending on the occasion. For instance, during farm visits, you can wear pants/jeans, a long sleeves shirt, and rain boots. In official and other ceremonies, business casual or locally tailored outfits are more appropriate.
If dress is inappropriate in any situation (dirty or torn clothing, shorts, halters, spaghetti straps or sleeveless clothing, short skirts, tight or low cut blouses), you will not be readily accepted in your job and may attract unwanted attention. Cameroonians may not directly comment on your dress, but they most likely will keep their distance from you if you’re inappropriately dressed.

While drinking alcohol is a part of the social fabric of Cameroon, it is generally advised that Volunteers limit drinking in public to special occasions and after work hours. Volunteers should be aware of the messages they send during daily interactions in the community. For example, women who smoke in public are often perceived poorly by the population, particularly in the Muslim parts or those small rural communities of the country.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Cameroon: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Medical Considerations in Cameroon

  • Cameroon may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: asthma, including mild or childhood; insulin-dependent diabetes; mammography; some types of gynecologic support; seizure disorder; requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; ongoing counseling.
  • The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal or cultural reasons: none identified. 
  • Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve: gluten, lactose, peanuts and shellfish.
  • After arrival in Cameroon, Peace Corps provides and applicants are required to have an annual flu shot, to take daily or weekly medication to prevent malaria, and to receive mandatory immunizations.

Cameroon is host to a set of tropical diseases known as filariasis. The types of most concern to Peace Corps Volunteers are Onchocerciasis and Loa Loa. There are no preventive medications, but reducing the number of insect bites lowers the risk of infection. This can be done with wearing long sleeves/pants and applying insect repellent. Volunteers are screened for infection during and at the end of service through blood testing. Your medical team will further discuss filariasis with you during training.

Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the clearance process and other health conditions that are difficult to accommodate in Peace Corps service.

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