Agriculture Extension Volunteer

Project Description

Can you imagine working in a field in a rural village alongside local farmers introducing them to new varieties of sweet potatoes rich in Vitamin A? Or collaborating with students on a school garden? Or supporting a local farming cooperative in their business planning or meeting their commercialization goals? If so, Peace Corps is seeking applicants like you who have the passion to join the ranks of nearly 4,000 volunteers who have served in Cameroon since 1962. Volunteers serving in the Agriculture Extension project work with local, technical counterparts to help to strengthen the capacity of small-scale farmers and youth to improve crop and livestock production, nutrition, and income security.

Agriculture Volunteers are assigned to rural farmer organizations in villages and small towns ranging from 500-7,000 inhabitants. In collaboration with an experienced counterpart, Volunteers work with cooperatives and other farmer-led groups to improve agricultural practices including integrated farming. They may also work in nearby schools to promote school gardens. To implement these activities, Volunteers work hand-in-hand with their technical counterparts to undertake many tasks, including:
• Conducting field trials and demonstrations on improved soil-crop cultivation practices including land preparation methods, crop rotation, usage of improved seeds, intercropping, appropriate spacing, proper use of organic and inorganic fertilizers and pesticides;
• Promoting the cultivation of nutritional crops including orange flesh sweet potato, biofortified cassava, soy, corn, moringa and indigenous vegetables;
• Training small-scale farmers on improved small animal husbandry practices for chicken, fish, rabbits, bees and other species;
• Training small-scale farmers in the creation of nurseries and improved methods for planting and care for indigenous fruit trees and agroforestry tree species;
• Working with local marketing cooperatives to build farmers’ capacity in basic business skills;
• Engaging with women-led farming groups to organize nutrition education and cooking demonstrations using locally available and affordable foods such as soy, corn, cassava, sweet potato, moringa, eggs and vegetables.

Volunteers spend a substantial amount of time in the field with their counterpart or farming group leader to promote best practices and build the capacity of farmers. This is a hands-on assignment where Volunteers and their technical counterparts work directly with community farming families to support them in establishing and/or diversifying their farm production, adopting new or improved small animal husbandry practices and increasing their consumption of a variety of nutritious foods. Agriculture Extension Volunteers also collaborate with Education and Health Volunteers and their counterparts to implement school gardens and HIV and malaria prevention activities, respectively.

During Pre-Service Training, Volunteers will receive technical training from experienced Cameroonian agriculture experts in facilitating the application of new knowledge to agricultural practices through farmer education. Then in your assigned community, you will work with local-level farming group leaders. Your daily activities may depend heavily on the farm location, farming season and weather.

Peace Corps has developed tools to help you and your Cameroonian counterpart perform an initial needs assessment in a culturally appropriate way that will provide information about the needs of the community in relation to your program goal and objectives. Among the keys to success are integration into your community to help you develop and maintain meaningful relationships with community members, and your ability to communicate in the local language.

Climate Change Activities

As the impacts of climate change become ever more evident, the social, economic, and environmental context within which smallholder farmers seek to maintain and improve their livelihood and support their families will continue to change. This will add significantly to the challenges of smallholder farming, particularly for the most disadvantaged communities. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will be trained to use a participatory approach and tools to identify locally determined priorities and conditions, including those related to the impacts of climate change. As an Agriculture Volunteer, you will be trained to use this local knowledge in engaging smallholder farmers in a climate-smart approach that:

• promotes the adoption of improved, appropriate, and adaptive agricultural practices and technologies that sustainably increase productivity;
• builds and strengthens household resilience by integrating and diversifying existing and new agriculture-related income-generating opportunities; and
• reduces greenhouse gas emissions attributable to ineffective and carbon intensive farming practices and encourages adoption of agricultural practices and activities that sequester carbon.

COVID-19 Volunteer Activities

As a Volunteer, you will be trained in how to best protect yourself from COVID-19 exposure and understand the impact of and steps to reduce stigma related to COVID-19. You may also have the opportunity to engage with your community on implementing or enhancing COVID-19 mitigation activities, such as COVID-19 prevention and risk reduction strategies including social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing, addressing myths and misconceptions related to these practices, and vaccine hesitancy. Activities will be tailored to address the COVID-19 circumstances in the communities where you will serve.

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

Additionally, Cameroon strongly prefers its Volunteers have one or more of the following criteria:
• Experience or expressed interest in vegetable gardening, nursery work and management, tree planting and care, nutrition, small scale poultry farming and/or beekeeping.
• Professional work experience in forestry, farming management, or staple crop and/or rice production.
• College level course work or knowledge related to natural resource management, food security, household nutrition education, and income generating activities.
• A desire to work with diverse rural community groups and with smallholder farmers to learn about their traditional agricultural practices as well as techniques for improving yields and nutrition.
• A keen interest in working as part of a multicultural team, largely in outdoor settings.
• The ability to demonstrate flexibility, learning on the fly, and a sense of humor.
• A strong willingness to learn a local language of Cameroon and a basic level of French.

The most competitive candidates will have one or more of the following:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture, Forestry, Animal Science, Botany, Biology, Zoology, Nutrition, Chemistry or other Life Science related fields or an Associate degree in Agronomy, Agribusiness, Agricultural Economics, Horticulture, or other related Biological Sciences.
• At least three years of full-time farm experience.

Required Language Skills

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

While there is no French language requirement for Cameroon, it is recommended that Invitees engage in intensive study of French in the U.S. before departing for Cameroon. Peace Corps will provide suggestions for online learning options and offer limited virtual French lessons prior to arrival.

While many people in Cameroon speak English, in the regions where Peace Corps operates, French is the predominate language and necessary to travel safely and interact effectively with colleagues, neighbors and others. Trainees will receive over 100 hours of French language training and all Trainees will be required to attain a functional French level (“Intermediate-Mid”) by the end of Pre-Service Training (PST). Volunteers posted in the Adamawa Region will also be expected to learn some Fulfulde during PST, as soon as they are informed about their post. No benchmark is set for Fulfulde, but Volunteers are encouraged to leave training with at least survival communication skills.

Indigenous languages in Cameroon are quite localized. For easy integration and a successful service, Volunteers will be expected to learn basic communication skills in the local language of their site during the first year of service and will be provided with resources to do so. Volunteers are also provided with additional learning opportunities to continue improving their French skills and after they go to their sites.

Living Conditions

Volunteer assignments are in the French-speaking regions of Cameroon. Host communities range from approximately 300 to 40,000 inhabitants. Cameroon’s climate has a dry season and two rainy seasons; it can be hot and muggy or more temperate or cool at higher elevations. Volunteer housing is modest and varies from site to site and region to region. Houses are usually built with cement blocks and zinc roof. Houses may have inside toilet and shower areas, but most have nearby or attached access to a private pit latrine and bathing area. Many houses do not have electricity or running water. Volunteers may need to use solar lamps for lighting. Water may have to be collected from nearby water sources. All water must be filtered before drinking and filters will be provided. While most volunteers may have limited or no access to the internet or cell phone coverage, all Volunteer houses are within a 30-minute walk of cell phone coverage. A basic cell phone can be purchased by Volunteers using their Settling-in Allowance, but it is recommended that Volunteers bring their own tablet or laptop for use at site or in a larger town or city. Settling-in allowance also allows Volunteers to buy furniture and set up their houses. Volunteers must be flexible, resilient, and prepared to adapt to the above-mentioned living conditions.

Your diet will include foods such as rice, or various pastes made of cassava, cornmeal, plantains. This is often served with a sauce made of tomato or greens and meat or fish. In most communities, there are markets and small stores where you can buy basic household items, food staples and fresh vegetables and fruits. Some may need to travel to another town to buy supplies. Vegetarians will face some challenges but should be able to maintain their diet.

Transportation to and from your site may be challenging at times, especially during the rainy season. Depending on the location of your site, you’ll likely travel by foot, motorbikes (as a passenger only), “bush taxis”, buses or train. You may request a bicycle from Peace Corps. Volunteers quickly observe that personal appearance is important to people in Cameroon. During Pre-Service Training (PST), the standard professional dress code is business casual. Following PST, when you are placed in the community, you will need to dress appropriately for socializing in the community and for work. Respecting Cameroonian culture and tradition by dressing appropriately helps you gain respect in your host community. It will also facilitate integration and increase your credibility and effectiveness.

Religion plays a central role in the lives of most Cameroonians. You may be assigned to a majority Christian or majority Muslim community. You may be asked to participate in religious or other traditional ceremonies. During PST you’ll have the opportunity to explore how you might respond to such situations.

Because of limited exposure to the diversity of the U.S., some Cameroonians may expect all U.S. citizens to be white. For Volunteers, the range of responses to their skin color may vary greatly: from being mistaken for a Cameroonian to being questioned about their citizenship. These encounters can be turned into teachable moments for the Volunteer and the Cameroonian.

Though people in Cameroon are generally tolerant, values and mores concerning sexual orientation and gender identity are conservative and there are restrictive laws that target certain sexual behaviors. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms and country-specific laws and use their best judgment to determine how to approach topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities. Staff and currently serving Volunteers will address this topic during PST and identify some potential support mechanisms for Trainees and Volunteers.

Serving in Cameroon

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

Couples Information

During pre-service training (PST), we will try to accommodate couples by placing them with the same host family, but we cannot guarantee that you will be housed in the same location as your spouse. However, during your service you would be able to live with your spouse. Cameroon cannot accommodate couples within the same sector, and sector-specific technical training may be in different locations (but all trainees will come together for core training sessions).

Your partner must qualify and apply for:

Community Health Educator
Secondary Education English Teacher
Secondary Education Science or Math Teacher

The Peace Corps works to foster safe and productive assignments for same-sex couples, and same-sex couples are not placed in countries where homosexual acts are criminalized. At this time, Peace Corps Cameroon is only able to accept heterosexual couples. During the application process recruiters and placement officers work closely with same-sex couple applicants to understand current placement opportunities. For more information please visit: https://www.peacecorps.gov/faqs/lgbtq/.

Medical Considerations

Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the medical clearance process.


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