Agriculture Extension Volunteer

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Project Description

Peace Corps Cameroon’s Agriculture Program aims to support and strengthen the capacity of smallholder farmers in rural areas to sustainably increase the productivity of their farming systems. Smallholder farmers contribute to more than 70% of the national food needs of Cameroon, though many still apply old and archaic agricultural techniques, which leads to low production. Additionally, most smallholder farmers lack basic business skills to make their farming a profitable enterprise. While the national agricultural development strategy recognizes the necessity of promoting sustainable agriculture that relies on family farms, limited attention has been granted towards smallholder farmers as there has been a shift towards supporting medium and large plantation farming.

Peace Corps Cameroon recognizes the value of an ecosystem approach to intensifying sustainable agricultural production and is committed to work with Cameroon’s Government agencies, NGOs, Local Research Institutions and rural communities who share this vision. The Peace Corps Agriculture Program is implementing a Smallholder Integrated Farming System Project where Volunteers employ a system approach based on conservation agricultural practices, the use of good quality seeds of high yielding adapted varieties, integrated pest management, plant nutrition based on healthy soil, efficient water management and the integration of crops, trees and small livestock. The project is focused on enhancing integrated agricultural production of rural smallholder farmers so as to increase their production and profitability.

Peace Corps Agriculture Volunteers work to build capacity among farmers through innovative extension approaches and the use of field based farmer training events. Their main tasks include empowering farmers with skills in farm planning, supporting new and low cost adapted agricultural technology transfer and building capacity in designing and managing small farm business projects.

Examples of hands-on field activity include:
• Engaging farmers in conducting farm assessment and developing farm plans
• Conducting field trials and demonstrations with farmers related to crop rotation, erosion control, cover crops, seed production, new or improved crop varieties and integrated pest management
• Working with local farmers who are organizing themselves into cooperatives in order to increase their production, lower production cost and gain higher market prices for their produce
• Training local people to create fruit tree nurseries and out plant into farmlands
• Motivating farmers to experiment with new or improved crop varieties and produce their own seeds
• Improving small livestock housing systems and providing health care
• Working with families and groups on methods to decrease post-harvest losses to insects, rodents, or spoilage.

Peace Corps Cameroon also encourages cross-sector work with the other program sectors (Health and Education). All Volunteers are expected to integrate HIV prevention activities into their work. Agriculture volunteers are therefore expected to collaborate with Education and Health volunteers to implement agriculture activities that empower adolescent boys and young women.

Agriculture volunteers in collaboration with health volunteers will also support people living with HIV to improve their nutritional status through improved gardening technique skills building, food transformation and nutrition education. Agriculture Volunteers will collaborate with health Volunteers to ensure that farmers learn more about HIV and adopt low risk sexual and health behaviors.

In collaboration with the Education program, Agriculture Volunteers are encouraging school gardens as a tool for learning and also encouraging entrepreneurial skills in adolescent girls. Examples of cross-sector collaboration opportunities include mushroom production, soy transformation, establishment of small vegetable gardens, nutrition training, malaria prevention activities, school gardens and composting projects with teachers and students.

Monitoring Reporting and Evaluation (MRE) is an integral part of Volunteer service in Peace Corps Cameroon. Volunteers are expected to routinely track, document and report all activities to their Program managers using tools and resources that will be made available once you arrive at post. You will receive training on MRE and on the use of these tools as well as routine onsite mentorship to build and reinforce your capacity to do MRE. You will be expected to report every trimester on a set of indicators contained in your project framework which will help Post staff measure progress towards attainment of program goals and objectives. It will also enable Post staff to share Peace Corps’ work with the Government of Cameroon and work partners.

You will receive training on how to implement the above requirements during your Pre-Service Training (PST) and during several other In-Service training opportunities. To facilitate your successful service, Peace Corps has adapted tools to help you do a needs assessment and integrate your community in a culturally appropriate way that gives you information about the needs of the community in relation to your program goals. Two of the most important key success factors are spending as much time as possible in your community to help you develop and maintain meaningful relations with community members and your ability to communicate in the local language.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates should have an expressed interest in working in tropical agriculture and

• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture, Forestry, Animal Science, Botany, Biology, Zoology, Nutrition, Chemistry or other Life Science related fields
• An Associate degree in Agronomy, Agribusiness, Agricultural Economics, Horticulture, or other related biological Sciences

Bachelor of Arts/Science in any discipline
• Five years’ work experience

Desired Skills

Successful candidates will have the following relevant qualifications and qualities:

• Strong passion for tropical agriculture and working with rural small-scale farmers
• Professional experience working on a small farm that involves vegetable gardening, tree cultivation and/or small livestock rearing
• Ability to work with and motivate illiterate farmers
• Strong facilitation and training skills
• Flexibility and willingness to adapt to a new culture, learn new knowledge, skills and a new life style
• Experience in small project designing and management

Required Language Skills

Candidates must meet one or more of the language requirements below in order to be considered for this position.
A. Willingness to take intensive French course and submit organized self-study plan to Placement Office prior to invitation
B. Completed 4 years of high school coursework within the past 8 years in a Romance language
C. Completed a minimum of 2 semesters of college level coursework within the past 6 years in a Romance language
D. 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).

French is necessary to travel safely and to interact effectively in Cameroon. Due to this, all Volunteers will have to attain a functional French level by the end of Pre-Service Training. For easy integration and a successful service, you will also be expected to learn the local language used in your site.

Volunteers are provided with additional opportunities to continue improving their French speaking as they go their post. It is recommended for invitees who have the possibility to begin intensive French learning in the US before departing.

Living Conditions

Cameroon is a wonderfully diverse and complex country. It is referred to as “Africa in miniature” owing to the variety of ethnic groups, religions, and geographic diversity. Tropical, equatorial, and semi-arid climates are found in Cameroon. The country is officially bilingual with French and English as official languages. Two of its ten regions are predominantly English-speaking, while the other eight are predominantly French-speaking. More than 250 additional languages are spoken throughout the country.

Presently, Volunteer assignment is concentrated in six of the French-speaking regions owing to the current political unrest and security restrictions in the English speaking regions (Northwest and Southwest) and part of the Northern regions (North and Far North). The six regions that Volunteers are currently located in are the West, Adamawa, Centre, East, Littoral, and South.

Peace Corps has enjoyed uninterrupted service in Cameroon since 1962. Living conditions in the country vary greatly from one Volunteer community to another. Volunteer communities will vary in population size from a few hundred to over ten thousand inhabitants. Volunteers must be flexible, resilient, and willing to live in very modest conditions without electricity, running water, and limited access to the internet and telephone coverage. Housing in each site is typically like those of the local inhabitants of the community. Volunteers are provided with a water filter, a mosquito net and a medical kit. In typical rural communities, houses are built with cement blocks or mud and roofed with zinc, aluminum sheeting, or thatch with outdoor latrines. Kerosene lamps are used for lighting, and drinking water is collected from nearby streams, bore holes, or wells. Some Volunteers may be placed in family concessions, with the Volunteer having their own room.

Volunteers receive a settling-in allowance to purchase basic items that are needed to set up their houses. Small stores exist in communities where Volunteers are posted where you can buy very basic household and food supplements for cooking. Locally cultivated staple foodstuff are also available. The most common are cassava, plantain, cocoyam, sweet potato, beans, peanuts and some others that vary depending on the region. Transportation to and from your site may be challenging at times, especially during the rainy season, owing to the bad state of the roads. Motorbikes and “bush taxis” are the most common means of transportation in most communities.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) Volunteers are welcomed within the Peace Corps Volunteer and staff community, and many LGBTQ Volunteers have served here successfully. However, it is important to note that same-sex sexual activity is criminalized by Cameroonian legal code and punishable by imprisonment. Culturally, LGBTQ are not well accepted by many Cameroonians, and LGBTQ Volunteers cannot safely serve openly. Please refer to the Local Laws and Special Circumstances of the U.S. Department of State’s travel page for more information.

Volunteers will be for many, the symbol of American culture. Your behavior may be taken as an example of a "typical American". Often, you will find yourself confronting questions and suspicions that have been formed by years of stereotypes about the US.

Volunteers are strongly encouraged to bring a laptop which not only increases options for internet access, but also enables Volunteers to complete required assignments off-line and upload them at a later date. While Volunteers may also complete the assignments through local internet cafes or other access points, having a laptop will facilitate successful participation in training. Please note that tablets and smart phones are not an effective alternative.

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

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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