Agriculture Extension Volunteer

Before You Apply

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Project Description

Madagascar is a beautiful tropical island, home to more than 10% of the World’s know species. Despite this beauty and diversity, the country is struggling with food insecurity and malnutrition. The purpose of Peace Corps Madagascar’s agriculture project is to improve food and nutrition security for Malagasy farm households through three objectives:
• Increase farmers’ capacity to improve diversity, productivity, and/or sustainability of smallholder farmer agricultural production
• Increase farmers’ capacity to increase agriculture-related income
• Increase the capacity of women of reproductive age and/or key household decision makers to increase the dietary diversity of households

Agricultural Extension Volunteers work with lead farmers, NGOs, Community Based Organizations and schools to promote a variety of sustainable agricultural practices including bio-intensive gardens, small animal husbandry (mainly poultry), agroforestry and climate smart agriculture. Volunteers also work to improve farmer’s capacity to increase agriculture-related income generating activities (IGAs) through basic business skill training and basic financial management such as basic bookkeeping. To promote healthy nutrition, Volunteers work with household decision makers (like mothers) to conduct nutrition trainings and cooking demonstrations. Peace Corps Madagascar provides training on these activities to ensure generalists with enthusiasm to learn are equipped to support their community.

Peace Corps Madagascar promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. Volunteers will receive training on gender challenges in Madagascar 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.

Volunteers serving in this project have an opportunity to address real needs in the country. Over the last 3 decades, environmental degradation has steadily taken place in Madagascar mainly due to human activities like agriculture, but exacerbated by climate change. Recent trends are showing that Madagascar is susceptible to severe and extreme climate events: drought, flood and cyclone; and as a result, the majority of Malagasy people are food insecure.

Overall, more than 50% of Malagasy children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition, ranking Madagascar among 6 countries in the world with chronic malnutrition. More than 80% of Malagasy people are farmers; inadequate agricultural techniques like slash and burn or excessive use of chemical products (pesticide and fertilizer) are used, often leading to environmental destruction. Malagasy Agriculture Extension agents, though they exist in some areas of the country, cannot reach the majority of farmers who really need their services. The lack of rural infrastructure suitable for agriculture growth, like irrigation systems, make farmers dependent on erratic rainfall for their farming activities. As a result, farming production stays at the subsistence level and often cannot produce enough to feed a household or sell at market. They lack adequate techniques to increase their yields and a high level of poverty, resulting in a dire food insecurity situation.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have an expressed interest in working in agriculture and one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field
OR
• 5 years' professional work experience

Desired Skills

Highly competitive candidates have extensive experience on one or more of the following:
• Agronomy, Horticulture, Agribusiness, Agroforestry, Food Security or crop production fields
• Experience in a variety of farming techniques
• School garden experience is highly desirable

Required Language Skills

There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position.

While not mandatory, Peace Corps/Madagascar prefers that Volunteers have a background in Romance language (French) as it is an important skill in country.

Peace Corps/Madagascar therefore suggests that invitees take an intensive French course before departing USA for service. They may not use this much in their daily work since the primary spoken language is Malagasy (the sole language in which PCVs will be trained during Pre-Service Training, but many partner technical reports, newspapers, and food menus are in
French.

Living Conditions

Madagascar is a huge island nation – the fourth largest island in the world – and its terrain is very diverse, the climate can change drastically from the Coast to the Highlands. Volunteers are placed throughout the East Coast, the Highlands and the South East, and living conditions can vary greatly from one Volunteer site to another. Volunteers should be flexible, resilient, and willing to live in very modest conditions – likely without electricity or running water. Community Health Advisors typically live in small villages, often with a population less than 2,000.

• Housing: During service, Volunteers live in private one-room or two-room housing. House material often depends on the region, with walls made out of local wooden material in the Coast and concrete in the Highlands. Volunteers have individual outdoor bath houses and latrines, but often no running water or electricity. Some communities may have access to generators that can provide electricity/battery recharge, but that is not standard.

• Communication: Almost all communication is conducted by cell phone. Peace Corps will help you buy your phone during the first few days of Pre-Service Training if you did not bring an unlocked phone from the States. Call costs are based on the amount of minutes used and texts sent and are deducted immediately. Incoming calls and texts, even from the US, are free.

• Internet: Most Volunteers will have limited or no computer Internet access in their communities. However, it is possible for many to access very slow Internet or messaging apps through the purchase of small and expensive data plans for smartphones. Please be aware and inform friends and family that while possible, communication options are much more limited than in the States.

• Transportation: Peace Corps provides a bike, helmet, and basic bicycle maintenance training to assist you in daily routines such as biking to nearby markets or visiting sites around your village. You may also be required to walk or bike between 3 to 10 Kilometers to reach a main road or an outlying village where community partners live and work.

• Food: In Madagascar, rice is the staple. Other foods include cassava, sweet potatoes, potatoes and corn. Meat and fish could be expensive or difficult to find depending on the region where you serve. Fish is more present in the coast where and meat is in the highlands. If meat or fish are not available, a variety or beans and peanuts can be used as source of protein. Vegetables vary by region but most of them are produced in the Highlands. Strict vegetarian and vegans may be challenged, especially during Pre-Service Training, and should be mindful of food customs in Madagascar: turning down a plate because it has meat may be seen as rejecting a gift. Volunteers have found it possible but difficult to maintain a vegetarian diet in Madagascar.

Madagascar has no laws prohibiting same sex relationships or romantic involvement. Same sex marriage is not permitted. LGBTQ Volunteers in Madagascar are not victims of violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but prejudice persists. Volunteers suspected by communities as non-cisgender, non-heteronormative may experience isolation, mockery, or difficulty in managing personal and professional relationships with Malagasy. There is a strong network of LGBTQ Volunteer serving in Madagascar today, and many who have successfully served in the past.

The cultural environment of Madagascar is an extremely social and welcoming one and Volunteers find it very easy to make friends. Although Madagascar has a rich story and fascinating culture, it is one of the poorest countries in the world, most volunteers experience emotional reactions to poverty and all that correlates to it. Volunteers must be emotionally mature and prepared to manage stress from living in such different conditions.

Malaria is highly endemic and PCVs must be prepared to take chemoprophylaxis without exception.

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

Couples Information

Madagascar can consider couples for the Health Sector OR for the Agriculture Sector, but cannot consider a “cross-sector” couple (where one partner applies as a Health Volunteer and another as an Agriculture Volunteer). Therefore, couples wishing to apply to Madagascar must both apply to the same sector.

Madagascar is a patriarchal society, so the male is often times seen as the head of the family. Couples will often face situations where the community seeks to first listen to the husband. Couples have to find their own culturally appropriate strategies to challenge their coworkers about their views on gender roles and gender equality. As in many patriarchal societies, Malagasy people tend to believe that men are more capable to conduct intensive manual labor compared to women (such as agriculture, for example). Therefore, couples must find ways to support each other when faced by these different gender roles expectations.

Medical Considerations in Madagascar

  • Madagascar may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: asthma, including mild or childhood; gastroenterology; some types of gynecologic support; insulin-dependent diabetes; requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; ongoing counseling.
  • The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal or cultural reasons: Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse.  
  • Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve: gluten, peanut, and shellfish.
  • After arrival in Madagascar, 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.

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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