Community Agriculture Extension Promoter

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Project Description

The overall goal of the Agriculture sector in Peace Corps Paraguay is the following: empowering rural households to achieve sustainable agriculture-based livelihoods.

Volunteers in the Agriculture sector in Paraguay are assigned to communities that have high schools with a science curriculum focused on agriculture, called Bachillerato Tecnico Agropecuario (BTA).
The project is designed to have a six-year Peace Corps presence in Agriculture in each of these communities - three generations of Volunteers, each serving for two years. Each generation will have a specific set of goals to work on and a focus area for working with students and their farming families, as listed below. Volunteers scheduled to depart in the fall of 2019 will be Generation 1.

Generation 1: Crop Cultivation
Community Agriculture Extension Promoters will focus on agriculture production including gardens at schools and with families; work in schools (grades 7-12) with counterparts to train youth on agricultural and extension techniques as a way to branch out to farming families. All three generations will teach nutrition and cooking of nutritious foods. Generation 1 may also introduce basic business skills (such as financial literacy), agroforestry and farm planning and management.

Generation 2: Small Animal Husbandry
Community Agriculture Extension Promoters will focus on small animal husbandry in schools (grades 7-12), and will also teach agriculture extension techniques with their counterpart as a way to branch out to farming families. With counterparts they will also train grades 7-8 on agriculture production, including gardens and agroforestry. Agriculture Volunteers will potentially work with previously identified and new families on agricultural production and animal husbandry. All generations of the Agricultural Sector in Paraguay will teach nutrition and cooking of nutritious foods. Generation 2 may also continue supporting basic business skills such as financial literacy, farm planning and management.

Generation 3: Post-Harvest Management and Commercialization
Community Agriculture Extension Promoters with counterparts will focus on post-harvest management, business skills, value chains, and income-generation in schools (grades 7-12), and will teach agriculture extension techniques. Agriculture Volunteers will coach recent graduates to train grades 7-8 on agriculture production, including gardens and agroforestry, and small animal husbandry. They will potentially work with previously identified and new families on agricultural production, small animal husbandry, post-harvest management, value chains, business skills, and income generation. All generations will teach nutrition and cooking of nutritious foods.

Generation 1 Agriculture Volunteers will focus on crop cultivation while also including other areas such as farm management/financial literacy, nutrition and agroforestry. They will work with 7th – 12th grades in the school setting 8 - 10 hours per week in the classroom as well as additional hours with the students outside of the classroom with the school garden and other activities. Community Agriculture Extension Promoters will also work with students’ families on crop cultivation and the other topics mentioned above working with two to six farming families. Some specific topics related to crop cultivation that will be worked on both with students and their families are:
• crop diversification;
• soil conservation/recuperation (e.g. green manures, composting, and contour plowing);
• the science of soil (chemical, biological, physical properties of soil and their effects on fertility);
• permagardening;
• seed banks;
• vermiculture;
• fencing techniques; etc.

Volunteers will also work with recent high school graduates to support activities both in the school and with farming families as an initiation into a career of agricultural extension work.

The principle objectives will be to assist students, recent graduates and farming families’ understanding and implementation of comprehensive sustainable food production systems. These can be used both for improved nutrition and income generation for farming families, which together help to create sustainable livelihoods. Community Agriculture Extension Promoters are expected to work with both schools and farming families.

There will be specific training for each generation which will build off of the results achieved by the previous generation of Volunteers. All Agriculture Volunteers, regardless of generation, will work on the same project framework and its related activities in their communities. All Volunteers in the Agriculture sector will work both in schools and with farming families. In some sites, Volunteers will also work with extension agents from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and/or organized farming committees.

Peace Corps Paraguay is excited to welcome enthusiastic and resilient Agriculture Volunteers who are dedicated to serving the people of Paraguay through this new initiative. The sector strategy for Agriculture is new, and chosen Volunteers will be expected to show understanding and flexibility. Please keep this in mind while deciding if this is the project for you.

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

• Bachelor of Science degree or Associate degree in Agronomy, Horticulture, or other related fields
• Prior experience working with youth and adults in formal or non-formal educational settings to promote crop cultivation is strongly preferred
• At least one year experience with gardening, farming and/or soil recuperation/conservation
• Strong interest in learning an indigenous language
• At least one year of experience working in a rural area under challenging conditions
• At least one year of service to a local community
• Demonstrated flexibility in work assignments
• Demonstrated ability to work effectively with teachers, farmers, and/or youth groups
• At least one life experience as the ‘new person’ moving into a community and successfully building positive relationships with others
• Conversational Spanish skills

In addition, Peace Corps would welcome candidates with one or more of the following degrees to apply:

• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education with concentration in any science
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with secondary certification in science
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in General Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or Engineering
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any physical science or any biological science or equivalent
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline with a minor or equivalent (15 semester/22 quarter hours) in Biology, Chemistry, or Physics

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 Spanish coursework within the past 8 years
B. Completed minimum 2 semesters of Spanish college‐level coursework within the past 6 years
C. Native/fluent speaker of Spanish

Candidates who do not meet the language proficiency levels above can take the language placement exams to demonstrate their level of proficiency. Competitive applicants typically attain a score of 50 on the Spanish College Level Examination Program CLEP exam or a score of Novice‐High on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL OPI).

Competitive candidates will have conversational Spanish language skills. Paraguay is a bilingual nation where both Spanish and Guarani are official national languages. In order to communicate in the capital city of Asuncion (and other large urban areas), Spanish is the most common language. However, in most semi-urban to rural areas where Environment Volunteers will be placed, Guarani or “Jopara” (a mixture of Guarani and Spanish) is the most common way to communicate. You will therefore need to learn both languages in order to be able to communicate and be effective in your work.

Since Trainees learn two languages you will need an open and positive attitude about language learning, as well as being willing to dedicate substantial time to learning and practicing both languages outside of formal language class during Pre-Service Training.

You will not be able to swear in as a Volunteer unless you meet both language benchmarks. Additionally, during training, you will be taught a basic competence in Spanish, but the focus of language training will be in Guarani. If perfecting or becoming fluent in Spanish is a main goal of your Peace Corps service, Paraguay may not be the best fit for you.

Living Conditions

• Agriculture Volunteers will often need to walk and/or bike up to five miles a day, as well as work in fields under hot and humid conditions (often over 95 degrees and 70% humidity).
• Communities range from rural (less than 1,000 habitants) to larger semi-urban areas (7,000-12,000 habitants).
• Conditions in rural areas can be very basic- i.e. you may have to use a latrine; water is not treated, etc. If you have health concerns about the conditions, a Peace Corps country program with more urban site placement may be a better fit.
• Houses and family living situations may be very rustic, and sometimes Volunteer housing does not have running water and depends on wells which may be shared with neighbors.
• Working situations range from outdoor manual labor to co-facilitating in front of a classroom.
• Volunteers may have limited cell phone coverage and/or internet access. Be prepared to not have internet access at site.
• Most sites are accessible by public transportation, but up to a 10k (~6 miles) walk or bike ride will be necessary to reach some sites.
• In some sites electricity is unreliable (works some days and doesn't work other days).
• Following 11 weeks of Pre-Service Training, where all Trainees live with a host family, all Volunteers are required to live with a host family for at least three months, totaling six months with a host family.
• The Paraguayan diet is heavily based on meat and can be challenging for vegetarians. The diet is also very high in carbohydrates. Many meals involve more than one starch at a time, for example, manioc and pasta or manioc and rice. Manioc and meat are eaten at least once a day almost every day. Fruits are available by season. Most sites have access to tomatoes, onions, and green peppers. There may be limited access to other vegetables. Many Volunteers have gardens in order to increase access to vegetables.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Paraguay: 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

Paraguay is happy to accept cross-sector and same-sector couples, including Environment and Agriculture. Your partner must qualify for and apply to one of the following openings:

* Community Agriculture Extension Promoter
* Community Environment Promoter

Couples will live together with a host family during Pre-Service Training, but may be separated for certain field-based activities if they are in different project sectors. During service, couples will live together with the same host family. If couples are in different sectors they will be separated for workshops and conferences for up to two weeks at a time due to in-service training events.

Medical Considerations in Paraguay

  • Paraguay may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: 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: none identified.
  • After arrival in Paraguay, Peace Corps provides and applicants are required to have an annual flu shot and 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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