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Food Security Volunteer

Project description

Since the Peace Corps first arrived in Nepal in 1962, Peace Corps Volunteers and host community members have demonstrated an impressive record of achievement, and Peace Corps service is more relevant than ever for supporting communities in adjusting to the realities of ongoing environmental shifts and helping Nepali youth prepare to lead their society into a sustainable future amidst a rapidly changing technological age.

At the request of the Government of Nepal, Peace Corps Nepal launched its Food Security Project in 2012 bringing Volunteers to Nepal to work alongside host country counterparts to promote food and nutrition security of rural Nepalese families, including smallholder farming households with women of reproductive age. The project focuses on climate-smart and nutrition-sensitive activities ranging from fruit tree promotion to mushroom farming, beekeeping, high-value/low-volume crop cultivation, and practices in accessing, cooking and consuming locally available nutritious foods. The project aims to partner with leading farmers in the community to provide sustainable extension services in and around their rural communities and to strengthen their ability to implement agricultural-based income-generating activities.

Projects will promote gender equity and support people from historically marginalized communities to mobilize their strengths to further positive food security outcomes. Volunteers will work alongside counterparts on a wide range of activities including, but not limited to:

• Training smallholder farming families on fruit and nut tree cultivation and supporting them to establish small scale and diversified fruit tree orchards.
• Coaching smallholder farming families to cultivate high-value/low-volume crops such as ginger, turmeric, and mushrooms.
• Training smallholder farming families on beekeeping and helping them to establish improved beehives.
• Conducting one-on-one training for women of reproductive age and/or key household decision makers on how to cook recipes that incorporate a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods.
• Providing one-on-one basic agricultural business skills to leading farmers so they can support extension resources that are available to the local community.
• Support school-based programming (including camps and clubs) to enhance student knowledge and skills in gardening and climate smart practices

In addition to their primary project, Volunteers have the potential to work alongside their counterparts to carry out activities that strengthen life skills and leadership skills among women, girls, youth, and people from other groups that have been historically marginalized.

While there is strong potential for Volunteers to work alongside counterparts to contribute to improving the food security situation of rural community people, working in rural communities can present certain challenges. For example, Nepali government supervisors assigned to work with Volunteers are in municipal offices outside of a Volunteer’s immediate community and this can prevent supervisors from regularly meeting with Volunteers. To remain effective, Volunteers must demonstrate a high degree of motivation, commitment, and initiative to properly engage with relevant community stakeholders to develop and implement work plans.

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.

Required skills

Qualified candidates will have an expressed interest in working in agriculture and will meet the following criteria:

• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any discipline
• Candidates must have a strong interest in nutrition education and the promotion of improved nutrition-related practices.

Desired skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:

• Bachelor of Science degree in Agronomy, Horticulture, Nutrition, or other related fields.
• At least 3 years’ full-time farm experience.
• Experience with hobby gardening, fruit tree or mushroom cultivation; experience bee keeping or agricultural-based income generation.
• Training and experience in organic farming, personal gardening, or climate-smart agricultural practices.
• Experience with after-school programs, clubs, or camps related to behavior change education.

Required language skills

There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position. Volunteers will be doing most of their work in Nepali language. Speaking Nepali is critical for Food Security Volunteers. By the end of Pre-Service Training, Volunteers are expected to attain a level of Nepali Language that will allow them to effectively integrate into their communities, and Volunteers are expected to build on this throughout their service . Volunteers are encouraged to continue learning the Nepali language after arriving at their site. As such, Peace Corps/Nepal provides funds so Volunteers will be able hire the service of a local tutor. If a qualified local tutor is not available, they can work with a tutors remotely.

Living conditions

All Volunteers live with a host family throughout the entire duration of their service. Volunteers share meals with their host family and have the option to learn and cook for themselves. While Volunteers have their own room, privacy is limited so individuals should prepare for communal-style living. Homes in Nepal are generally made of bricks, mud or cement and have passed minimum earthquake-safe inspections conducted by the Peace Corps staff.

Most Nepalis eat rice, flat breads and legumes as their staples. However, corn, potatoes, other tubers seasonal fruits and vegetables are consumed when available. Bread and noodles are available in most towns. Imported goods are available in the cities but are expensive. Meat is usually consumed once a week or bi-weekly and maintaining a vegetarian diet is feasible.

Volunteers may walk up to two miles every day on hilly terrain to reach school; travel to and from school may total 1 hour. While Volunteers are placed in separate communities across several districts, proximity to the nearest Volunteer is normally within a 4-8 hour walk or a 3-hour jeep ride. Considering Volunteers serve in the mid-hills region of Nepal, bicycle travel is usually the exception rather than the norm.

Nepal has four seasons. The average temperature ranges from 41-68 degrees in winter and 73-95 degrees Fahrenheit during the hot season. June-September is the monsoon season when it rains almost every day. There are variations between districts and Volunteers should be prepared to live in hot and cold weather. There is no central air or heat in Nepali homes.

While Volunteers can charge their electronic devices in their homes, households generally limit their use of electronics due to cost and availability of electricity. Some communities have schools, government offices and other locations that offer Wi-Fi. Peace Corps Nepal provides Volunteers with a basic smartphone and data package and some Volunteers may choose to purchase additional internet data as they see fit. Running water and hot showers are rare and most households use a latrine-style toilet located outside of the house.

Knowledge and acceptance of LGBTQ+ community members in any host community may be limited. LGBTQ+ Volunteers will need to be mindful of this lack of knowledge and use their judgement to determine the best way to approach sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities. Staff will address this topic during Pre-Service Training and throughout service to identify support mechanisms for Trainees and Volunteers.

Volunteers can expect challenges and opportunities in their cultural exchanges during Peace Corps service. Many Nepalis are unfamiliar with American diversity and are often curious about the cultures of Volunteers from different backgrounds. Stereotypes exist and Volunteers with backgrounds, visible disabilities, or spiritual beliefs different from those commonly found in their Nepali community may experience a high degree of curiosity, unwanted attention, or even discrimination from host country nationals. These Volunteers may not be treated with the same level of respect as other Volunteers and may be told that they are not “real Americans.” Volunteers can turn these encounters into teaching and learning experiences by sharing a wider lens of American values and deepening connections and intercultural understanding among community members.

For safety and security reasons, Peace Corps Nepal has restrictions on extreme sports and trekking routes Volunteers can use.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Nepal: 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

Peace Corps Nepal can accommodate couples where both people serve in the same sector. Peace Corps Nepal cannot accept cross sector couples where one serves in English Education or Environment and the other serves in Food Security. Couples live together throughout their service. This includes living with a homestay family during the 11-week Pre-Service Training, as well as in their permanent community for the 2 years of service.

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