Agriculture Extension Volunteer

Before You Apply

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Project Description

At least 80 percent of Malagasy people are farmers living on less than one US dollar per day. Poor infrastructure limits access to much of the island’s arable land. The Government of Madagascar (GoM) has limited agricultural extension capacity, leaving an important gap in the GoM’s ability to empower small-holder famers and households with important skills for ensuring sustainable and diverse food production. Notably, there is a lack of capacity in bio-intensive production and low-cost, asset based soil management to maximize food production on limited land. Additionally, capacity is limited in low-cost, asset-based water management skills essential for managing erratic rain events, or periods of prolonged drought or rainfall.

Food insecurity is significant in Madagascar. According to UNICEF, Madagascar is one of the 10 countries in the world with the highest burden of chronic malnutrition, and one of the 20 countries where 90 percent of the world's stunted children live. Acute malnutrition among children under five varies from 10 percent to 20 percent in the country's most vulnerable regions during the 'lean season' when food supplies are limited. Research has shown that alleviating stunting among children under two, through improved availability and access to nutritious food every day, has dramatic effects on cognitive function, language and behavioral development, and significantly contributes to overall reductions in morbidity and mortality.

To address food production and household nutrition needs, Peace Corps Madagascar’s Food Security Project builds capacity of household decision makers, gardeners, and farmers to create and maintain bio-intensive, daily-access, climate-smart growing spaces that produce nutrient-dense food for family consumption.
The purpose of Peace Corps Madagascar’s agriculture project is to improve food and nutrition security for Malagasy households through two main objectives:

1. Farmers and other stakeholders develop improved capacity in small, local bio-intensive, climate-smart, food production to increase daily availability of and access to nutrient dense food for house-hold consumption.
2. Women of reproductive age (WRA) and/or key household decision-makers (KHDM) develop their capacity to consume a diet of minimum diversity.

Agricultural Extension Volunteers can work with lead farmers, NGOs, Community Based Organizations, schools, and key community members to promote a variety of sustainable agricultural practices including bio-intensive gardens, agroforestry and climate smart agriculture. 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 that enthusiastic generalists with limited agriculture background 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.

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. Please take a moment to explore the Language Comments section below to find out more on how local language(s) will be utilized during service.

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. You may not use this much in your daily work since the primary spoken language is Malagasy (the sole language in which PCVs will be trained during Pre-Service Training), but many technical reports, newspapers, and food menus are in French.

Living Conditions

Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world and its terrain is diverse, the climate can change drastically from the Coast to the Highlands. Volunteers are placed throughout the East Coast, the Highlands, North-West, the South East and the Deep South, 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.

• 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 shared or individual latrines, but often no running water or electricity. Some communities may have access to generators or solar charger 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 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. It is possible for many to access very slow Internet or messaging apps through the purchase of small and expensive data plans for smartphones.

• Transportation: On a case by case basis, Peace Corps may provide 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 if needed. 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 and beef and chicken in the Highlands. 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.

Madagascar is graced with wonderful, though seasonal, fruits such as pineapples, peaches, plums, bananas, etc. But during the off-season, specific fruits may be unavailable and also unevenly distributed across country. You will do your shopping at the local market, but some items might have to be purchased at a larger town nearby.

Strict vegetarians and vegans may be challenged, especially during Pre-Service Training. Volunteers 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; however, same sex marriage is not permitted. LGBTQ Volunteers in Madagascar may experience prejudice because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but cases of violence are extremely atypical. 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 Volunteers 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. Most Volunteers find it very easy to make friends. Although Madagascar has a rich history and fascinating culture, it is one of the poorest countries in the world; many 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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