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Agriculture Extension Volunteer

Project description

Known as "the water tower of West Africa," Guinea has abundant natural resources and contains the headwaters of the region's major rivers. Good management of resources, water, forests, and soils will facilitate potential farming, animal rearing, and create jobs for youth and women's groups. However, a study by the World Food Program in November 2020 indicated that 55% of Guineans live below the poverty line, and more than 21% of households are food insecure. Rural populations and subsistence farmers are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. Poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition rates are alarming, especially in rural areas. The Government of Guinea seeks to increase the agriculture sector's contribution to food security, nutrition, and poverty reduction.

Agriculture Extension Volunteers work alongside smallholder farmers because they receive limited technical assistance, access to seeds and fertilizers, production and processing equipment, storage facilities or other basic infrastructure, and affordable financial services. As a Volunteer, you will work with many stakeholders to support this goal, including local cooperatives, individuals, households, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government field agents, and researchers. Women play a crucial role in agriculture and food production even though they have more difficulty accessing land and productive resources, education, formal employment, and income-generating activities. Volunteers form strong collaborative partnerships with community members, especially women and youth, to analyze community needs. Volunteers work alongside their host community to promote the long-term, sustainable use of new agricultural techniques for diversified and increased nutrient-rich food production and natural resource management.

According to the needs of the assigned community, Volunteers will work to promote sustainable agricultural practices through the following activities:
• Improve the diversity, yield, and sustainability of crops through multi-purpose tree planting and fruit production (moringa, fruit, coffee, and cashew)
• Promote alternative farming practices such as small animal husbandry (poultry and bees), food transformation and conservation, soap making with natural resources such as herbal products or honey
• Increase household incomes by working with community members to identify and develop income-generating activities and post-harvest management (rice, cashew, moringa)
• Develop new products and strengthen basic business practices (calculate business costs, record keeping, calculating profits)
• Improve basic farm management skills
• Increase dietary diversity through nutrition education and food preparation techniques
• Increase the capacity of women of reproductive age and key household decision-makers to increase the dietary diversity of households
• Promote watershed management skills

During the three-month Pre-Service Training (PST), you will learn how to build individual home gardens and other farming techniques on your own, or in a small group with other Trainees. You will be encouraged to learn from previous mistakes and successes with supervision, guidance, and constructive feedback from staff. Staff will lead guided farm visits and share learning resources such as tutorials and training manuals. Peace Corps provides Volunteers with a technical supply fund to buy improved seeds and garden tools. After training, you will build a demonstration garden and nursery with your community counterpart in your worksite. In addition, you will do community or cross-sectoral exchange travel to amplify learning and invite peers and stakeholders in and around your community. You will receive continued training on agribusiness, food processing, beekeeping, nutrition-sensitive home gardening, small-scale local poultry farming, and climate change-sensitive agriculture.

Climate change activities

As the impacts of climate change become increasingly 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.

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, Guinea 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, tree/vegetable nurseries, 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.
• A keen interest in learning about and participating in local, rural agriculture.
• A strong desire to learn about Guinean agricultural practices and work as part of a multicultural team.
• The ability to demonstrate flexibility, learning on the fly, and a sense of humor.

Required language skills

There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position. Agriculture Extension Volunteers will be taught to speak French until they reach the level of novice high before switching to the appropriate local language of their community, with some communities speaking Susu, Pular, and Maninka.

Invitees are encouraged to take a French course prior to service and to continue with tutoring during Pre-Service Training and afterward once in their community. Volunteers are provided with a monthly allowance for tutoring.

Living conditions

Volunteers are assigned to rural villages where the need is greatest. These villages can range in size from several hundred to a few thousand people. The Peace Corps works with communities to prepare housing and ensure that it is safe and secure, near a source of water, accessible to a market, and within walking distance of clear cell phone reception.

Houses are typically simple round huts with one to three room structures, with either metal or thatched roofs. Many are situated within a family compound. Most Volunteer houses do not have electricity or running water. Houses may have inside toilet and shower areas, but most have nearby or attached access to a private pit latrine and bathing area.

Cell phone services improve each year but fluctuate by location. Phones work in almost all areas of the country, but internet access can be limited at the village level. A basic cell phone is given to Volunteers. During training, Volunteers are also provided with a one-time allowance to purchase a tablet in country. Current Volunteers have found it helpful to bring their own laptop for personal use in their community. Regional offices are also equipped with computers with internet access.

Personal appearance is important to the people of Guinea. 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 working. Respecting Guinean 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.

Volunteers are provided bikes for transport should they choose; however, many communities are within walking distance to the Volunteer’s worksite. For longer distances, Volunteers use small passenger vehicles to go into the regional capital or to gain access to public transportation.

At most main meals, rice, maize, cassava, or local grain called “fonio” are eaten, along with leaves (like spinach and potato leaves), with a peanut or tomato-based sauce served with vegetables, meat, or fish. Fruits such as mangoes, avocados, pineapples, papayas, oranges, and limes are available seasonally. Vegetables are not as common, and those that are, are usually cooked into sauces. One of your goals is to work with community members to highlight the importance of eating these vegetables in new ways.

Though people in Guinea are generally tolerant, values and mores concerning sexual orientation and gender identity are well defined 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 other currently serving Volunteers will address this topic during PST and identify some potential support mechanisms for incoming Trainees.

During your service, you will have an incredible experience that will have many challenges, but will undoubtedly bring incredible rewards as you develop social and working relationships with a variety of people, learn to communicate in local languages, develop an understanding of local expectations and customs, along with an appreciation of local foods, and learn to live and work in Guinea, where the concepts of comfort and necessity get redefined.

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

Medical considerations

Before you apply, please review medical clearance and legal clearance to learn about the process.

Couples information

Your partner must qualify and apply for the following position:

• Public Health Educator

Couples will likely be separated during the ten weeks of Pre-Service Training as they will live in modified dormitory accommodations. Once in their communities, couples will share a home that meets the same standards for all Volunteers. There will be times during service when couples will spend some days and nights apart, such as when one is attending a specialized in-service training, a meeting, routine medical appointments, etc.

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