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Urban Agriculture Extension Agent

Project description

Peace Corps Urban Agriculture Extension Agent Volunteers fill a niche in economically challenged and food insecure communities in Senegal. Volunteers extend farming methods to community growers who work on smallholder family farms – small farms that rely on family labor. They assist smallholder farmers and their family members in adapting to climate change through the adoption of improved crop cultivation technologies and practices, conservation agriculture, gardening, improved soil and water conservation, improved post-harvest management and farm management. Volunteers assist household members—particularly women—to access, cook, and eat more diverse, nutritious foods to improve their and their families’ nutrition.

In Senegal, there is a need for agricultural work that appeals to youth and that empowers women while promoting climate smart sustainable agriculture. 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 through learning agricultural skills and growing gardens. Volunteers place 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 and nutrition. Through the efforts of Volunteers and their partners, communities achieve this goal by working toward two objectives:
1. Increase farmers’ capacity to sustainably cultivate improved varieties of staple crops for home consumption and income.
2. Increase farmers’, especially youth, women, and teachers, capacity to sustainably grow more vegetables for home consumption and income.
To tackle food insecurity, Urban Agriculture Volunteers are trained to work on:
- Sustainable, environmentally sound, nutrition-sensitive agriculture for greater food security in some of Senegal’s poorest communities
- Micro gardening
- Climate change activities
- 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 experienced farmers

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

While serving, you will act as a facilitator, co-trainer, catalyst, liaison, and resource person for farming communities. You do not need to be a farmer or a food security expert to be successful; we will train you on the technical skills you will need and on gender dynamics in Senegal. In addition, we will provide you advice and feedback on the activities you will implement.

As an actor in the development of Senegal, and as part of the wider Peace Corps effort to share our story with our counterparts and host governments as well as to bring that story home to the US, you will monitor and report on your work activities throughout your service through field visits, surveys, and stories.

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 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

Competitive candidates will have a passion for agriculture and some or all of the following qualifications and qualities:

-Experience or interest with gardening or growing crops
-Experience working to improve the soil and teaching water management techniques
-Experience in promoting food security
-Experience sharing/teaching agricultural practices
-Experience working outdoors in challenging weather conditions
-Leadership Experience (e.g., public speaking and partnership building)
-Experience working with youth as well as adults for agricultural awareness and the promotion of gender equity
-French language skills are desirable but not required.

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 live, 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

Most Peace Corps Senegal Volunteers live with families; however, some Volunteers will live in independent housing and will be connected with a resource family. Sharing meals and camaraderie with your host/resource family will help you to understand the culture, enjoy the security of family life and learn the language of your community. When living with a host family, Volunteers have a private room/hut and private latrine/toilet within the family living environment. Volunteers with independent housing will have a basic house/hut or apartment with cooking facilities and toilet and bathing area.

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 Peace Corps-issued smart phone. Internet is becoming more widely available, although it is still not available everywhere. You may be able to access 4G. Internet coverage is more commonly available in larger towns and cities.

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. To support all Volunteers to have the basic tools necessary for their work Peace Corps will provide an optional one-time grant as part of the settling-in allowance to help Volunteers purchase a laptop.

Senegalese dishes consist 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. Access to produce is seasonal and variety is often limited by geographic locations. Determined vegetarians can 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/horse cart for shorter trips within your community and to nearby towns or villages. In all cases, Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to observe Peace Corps Senegal’s transportation policy.

Senegalese pride themselves on being well dressed. 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. There is a lot of beautiful cloth available in Senegal, and many Volunteers have clothing made by local tailors. Plan to wear clothing that is not overly tight and that covers you to below the knee. Long shorts are acceptable for sports, but otherwise are rarely worn.

Through inclusive recruitment and retention of staff and Volunteers, the Peace Corps seeks to reflect the rich diversity of the United States and bring diverse perspectives and solutions to development issues. Volunteers who are of an American racial, ethnic, or national minority or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority may experience curiosity and unwanted attention from Senegalese nationals. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQI+) Volunteers are welcomed within the Peace Corps Volunteer and staff community, and many LGBTQI+ Volunteers have served here successfully.

Senegal has restrictive laws that target certain sexual acts. 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 and host countries. Staff and former Volunteers will address these topics during Pre-Service Training, and identify potential support mechanisms for incoming trainees.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Senegal: 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

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