Forestry and Environment Specialist

Before You Apply

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Project Description

Senegal is experiencing widespread environmental deterioration that significantly impacts people’s welfare and undermines the opportunities of future generations. Senegal’s current land use system contributes to deforestation and a drastic decline in soil fertility and water quality. In addition, the effects of climate change such as rising temperatures and sea level strongly impact agricultural production. With well over a third of the population living below the poverty line, Senegal, like many of its regional neighbors, is affected by high rates of food insecurity, health vulnerability and gender inequality. To address these constraints and ensure better food security, intervention at the grass-roots level is necessary to improve communities’ management of natural resources and the environment. Adults and youth need to acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for the preservation of the environment, and the intensification and diversification of agricultural production.

The goal of the Peace Corps Senegal Agroforestry Project is to help individuals and communities to improve the management of natural resources and the environment, ensuring food security in a healthier environment.

To this effect, Volunteers will work to:
• Increase the knowledge and appreciation of environmental issues in youth and adults.
• Increase the capacity of communities to plant and care for trees in order to increase access to nutritious foods, generate income, and restore and protect land.
• Increase the capacity of communities to manage natural resources and the environment in sustainable, healthy, and productive ways.

Volunteers will work to meet the objectives above by engaging in the following activities:
• Conducting environmental education with youth and adults both within and outside of school settings
• Promoting and planting multi-purpose tree species that enhance soil fertility, reduce erosion, and protect fields against animals
• Establishing and managing fruit tree orchards to produce quality fruit (mainly mango, citrus, and cashews) to be sold in local markets or consumed by families
• Engaging in general gardening extension and promoting community engagement in the management of their natural resources and challenges (e.g., fire management, reforestation activities, erosion control)

Peace Corps Senegal promotes gender awareness, gender equity, and girls’ and women’s empowerment. You will receive training on gender challenges in Senegal and you will have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. During your service, you will look for ways to work with community members to promote gender-equitable norms and increase girls’ sense of agency. You will monitor, evaluate and report on the work conducted by the farmers and others you work with through field visits and surveys.

You don't need to be an agroforestry expert to be a successful Volunteer. While serving, you will act as a facilitator, a catalyst, a liaison, and a resource person for farming communities.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Science/Associate degree in Forestry, Watershed Management, Natural Resources, Environmental Science or Ecology, or other related field
• Bachelor of Science/Associate degree in any degree plus 3 years work experience in forestry, horticulture, nursery management, or other related fields

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have a passion for the environment and the following qualifications and qualities:
• Experience developing tree nurseries, grafting, pruning, and planting for food production
• Experience building live fencing, windbreaks, and firebreaks
• Experience working to improve the soil and teaching water management techniques
• An interest in sharing agroforestry technologies
• A strong desire to work outdoors in sometimes difficult weather conditions
• Good interpersonal and leadership skills (e.g., public speaking and partnership building)
• An interest in working with youth as well as adults for environmental awareness and the promotion of gender equity

Applicants with a French language background, particularly those with strong speaking skills, are encouraged to apply.

Required Language Skills

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

The dominant languages in Senegal are Wolof and Pulaar, but there are many other smaller language groups as well. You will receive intensive training in the most common language of the village where you will be based and you will attain a proficiency level in that language by the time you complete your Pre-Service Training. Most of your work will be carried out in a local language.

Peace Corps Senegal does not train in French, preferring to focus on the primary language that the Volunteer will speak. French language skills are, however, very useful in Senegal, particularly when traveling or when working with people from other parts of the country. You are encouraged to learn as much French as possible prior to arrival in country.

Living Conditions

All Peace Corps Senegal Volunteers live with families, sharing meals and camaraderie with them. This affords you an opportunity to understand the culture, enjoy the security of family life, and learn the language of your community. Volunteers will live in villages. You will have your own small room or hut in your family’s compound with a private latrine or bathroom. Although having your own space provides some privacy, adjusting to family life can be a real challenge, albeit one that also brings many benefits.

Many Volunteer homes do not have access to running water or electricity. Water is collected at a community pump or well. Cell phone coverage in Senegal is fairly good and you will have a basic Peace Corps issued cell phone. Internet is becoming more widely available, although it is still not available everywhere. You may be able to access 4G if you own a smart phone or invest in an internet USB. Internet coverage is more commonly available in larger towns and cities.

Volunteers are encouraged to bring a laptop for project planning, monitoring and reporting. However, keep in mind that the dust, heat, and humidity of Senegal are hard on electronics. It can be very useful to have a laptop and a smart phone, but you may not wish to invest in the most expensive model; cheaper used and/or hardier models may be better options.

Senegalese dishes are tasty, usually consisting of rice, millet, or corn with vegetable sauces, and sometimes with fresh or dried fish. Meat is also available but more of a rarity. The quality of food you eat daily depends on the size of your host family and their level of income. There is far less variety than many Americans are accustomed to having. Determined vegetarians are able to make arrangements to maintain their diet, but this usually further decreases variety.

Senegal enjoys a good primary road system, but transportation remains a challenge. You will usually travel in crowded, shared taxis and buses over rough roads, particularly outside of urban areas. You will travel by bike or on foot or donkey cart for shorter trips within your community and to nearby towns or villages.

Senegalese pride themselves on being well dressed, and a neat and dignified appearance will say a lot about your desire to be accepted as a colleague. During Pre-Service Training, the dress code is business casual. For working in farms and fields and while in your community, dress is more casual, but you will want to be well dressed for meetings and formal occasions. There is a lot of beautiful cloth available in Senegal, and many Volunteers have clothing made by local tailors. If you are a woman, plan to wear clothing that is not overly tight and that covers you to below the knee. If you are a man, long shorts are acceptable for farm labor and sports, but otherwise are rarely worn.

Senegal has a proud heritage of religious and ethnic tolerance. Through inclusive recruitment of staff and Volunteers, Peace Corps Senegal seeks to reflect the rich diversity of the United States and bring diverse perspectives and solutions to development issues. Our definition of diversity includes, but is not limited to: race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, education, and ability. Volunteers who are of an American racial, ethnic, or national minority or whose religious beliefs differ from the majority of Senegalese should be prepared for curiosity and at times unwanted attention.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) Volunteers are welcomed in the Peace Corps Volunteer and staff community, and many LGBTQ Volunteers have served successfully in Senegal. It is important that you know, however, that same-sex sexual activity between adults is criminalized by Senegalese legal code and punishable by imprisonment. Culturally, LGBTQ people are not well accepted by many Senegalese, and LGBTQ Volunteers cannot safely serve openly.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Senegal: 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

Senegal can accommodate couples serving together but working in different projects. Therefore, your partner must qualify and apply for one of the following positions:

Sustainable Rural Agriculture Extension Agent
Sustainable Rural Agriculture Specialist

Couples will live together during Pre-Service Training as well as the two years of service. They will share a hut or room within a family home or compound, as do single Volunteers.

Medical Considerations in Senegal

  • Senegal may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: asthma, including mild and childhood; insulin-dependent diabetes; gasteroenterology; requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; seizure disorder; 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: peanuts and shellfish.
  • After arrival in Senegal, 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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