Sustainable Rural Agriculture Specialist

Before You Apply

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Project Description

Peace Corps Agriculture Volunteers fill an important niche in many poor food insecure communities in Senegal. Volunteers extend farming methods to community growers who work on smallholder family farms—small farms that rely mainly on family labor. They assist smallholder farmers and their family members to adopt improved crop cultivation technologies and practices, particularly conservation agriculture, home gardening, improved soil and water conservation, improved post-harvest management, and better farm management. Additionally, Volunteers assist household members—particularly women—to access, cook, and eat more diverse, nutrient-rich foods to improve their and their families’ nutrition.

In Senegal, there is a real need for agricultural work opportunities that appeal to youth and that empower women while promoting sustainable agriculture for years to come. Given the need to educate the next generation of farmers and gardeners, Volunteers and their community partners work with youth through schools and clubs to promote youth positive development and women’s empowerment while learning agricultural skills and growing gardens. Volunteers place a special emphasis on working with women to increase their productivity through increased access to extension services and other productive resources necessary for agriculture.

The goal of Peace Corps Senegal’s Agriculture project is for Senegalese communities to improve their food security. Through the efforts of Volunteers and their partners, communities achieve this goal by working toward two broad objectives:
• To increase farmers’ capacity to sustainably cultivate improved varieties of staple crops.
• To increase communities’ capacity to sustainably grow more vegetables for home consumption and income.

To tackle food insecurity, rural and urban Agriculture Volunteers are trained to work on six key focus areas:
• Sustainable, environmentally sound, nutrition-sensitive agriculture for greater food security in some of Senegal’s poorest communities
• Developing partnerships with farmer associations, NGOs, and other institutions at the local level to support and improve farming practices
• Development of locally sustainable sources of improved seed varieties
• Youth positive development through youth clubs and agriculturally-focused student groups
• Gender empowerment as a pathway to achieving sustainable development
• Building a partnership with pilot and master farmers.

Peace Corps has found that the best agriculture extension agent is the smallholder farmer. Volunteers work with a growing cadre of pilot and master farmers who are prepared to commit to sharing their expertise with other growers through trainings and demonstrations.

As an Agriculture Volunteer in Senegal, you will provide a valuable service to your community in their quest for increased food production, by promoting the transfer of appropriate skills and technologies through teaching growers one-on-one or in groups, through side by side demonstrations implemented with other farmers, and with clubs and other youth groups.

You don't need to be a farmer or a food security expert to be a successful Volunteer; we will train you on the basic technical skills you will need. However, you need an interest in food production, a desire to learn, and a drive to serve the needs of your community. While serving, you will act as a facilitator, catalyst, liaison, and resource person for farming communities.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Science degree or Associate degree in Agronomy, Horticulture, or other related fields
• At least 3 years full-time farm experience

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following qualifications and qualities:
• A desire to work outdoors
• Experience with or interest in growing food or food security
• An interest in working with youth as well as in increasing the empowerment of women and girls in agricultural communities
• Strong interpersonal skills

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 a staple of rice, millet, or corn with vegetable sauces, and sometimes with fresh or dried fish. Meat is also available but more of a rarity. 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:

Forestry and Environment Change Agent
Forestry and Environment 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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