First I would like to start with some recent developments that have taken place in West Africa that have more than likely affected Peace Corps volunteers serving in both The Gambia and Senegal. On December 1st, 2016, the now former President of The Gambia Yahya Jammeh, who has been in power since 1994 lost the election to his rival Adama Barrow. If you remember from my last post, The Gambia is a semi-enclave within Senegal. On January 19th, 2017 Jammeh was supposed to step down to allow president-elect Adama Barrow to take power peacefully. Former President Jammeh has contested the results and declared a 90 day state of emergency from the January 19th deadline which preceded a vote in parliament a day later to give an extra 90 days in office to allow the legal procedure to process. The international community has recognized the election results as valid and disputed the claim of Jammeh. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) voted to intervene militarily with a regional force to oust Jammeh to take control of the government while president-elect Barrow was sworn in at the Gambian embassy in Senegal. This past weekend former President Jammeh left the country after negotiations with Guinean and Mauritanian presidents. Thankfully there was no violence and the situation for the most part, seems to be solved. Although, The Gambia is mysteriously missing about $11 million that has presumably been stolen by Jammeh, but other than that, no lives were lost and the new President is set to take office peacefully which is a huge relief for me.
It is very sobering to realize that anything can happen, anywhere, and at anytime. This particular situation had the very real possibility to become violent and fortunately it did not have to. In the event that Peace Corps volunteers are exposed to any kind of danger, whether it be from disease or political unrest, I am very confident that the Peace Corps as an agency will be prepared to accurately assess the situation and take the necessary steps to make sure volunteers are safe and I have no doubts in my mind about the Peace Corps ability to do so. I am aware of the realities of service and I am still looking forward to beginning service in September. With that said, I hope this post is much more interesting than the last, (if you aren’t into comparative politics), and gives you a better idea of the Peace Corps program in Senegal and a clearer picture of what exactly it is that I will be doing once I arrive!
Peace Corps Senegal
The Peace Corps has three main goals: to help enable sustainable development in the countries where we work; to help the people we work with gain a better understanding of America and Americans; and to help Americans better understand the rest of the world. PC Senegal was established in 1962 and officially began with the assignment of 15 English teachers to secondary schools in 1963. With a legacy of around 3000 volunteers who previously served and approximately 295 volunteers currently serving, Peace Corps has evolved to fit the needs of Senegal and the Senegalese people.PC Senegal currently has 5 projects: small enterprise development, ecotourism, agroforestry, agriculture, and health education. Volunteers are primarily assigned to small-scale activities to train rural communities to solve their problems and priorities through sustainable grassroots development.
Sustainable Agriculture Extension Agent
As you might have probably guessed, I will be working in the agriculture sector as a sustainable agriculture extension agent. I will likely be assigned to the Agriculture Division within Senegal’s Ministry of Agriculture. I will be responsible, along with my host-country colleagues and others in my assigned area, for participating actively in the creation of work plans, monitoring and expanding the work of previous Volunteers and their counterparts, and maintaining a documentation system for baseline information and reports within my ‘work zone’.
My work entails promoting the transfer of appropriate skills and technology through demonstration providing a valuable service to a rural community in their quest for information and materials to increase production. I will get to know a small number of communities very well, as emphasis is placed on qualitative rather than quantitative results. I will be working with a variety of crops that could potentially include rice, sorghum/millet, and cow-peas. Of course the crops I end up working with are entirely dependent on where my site is located. To give you an example of some of the specific activities I might use to promote sustainable agriculture practices I took some of the main ones and put them into a list:
- Increase village field crop production via different seed varieties and associated agricultural practices
- Protect crops from pest damage via integrated pest management
- Increase soil fertility
- Promote improved seed selection, storage, and seed handling techniques
In addition to my primary work with local farmers and rural communities, I am encouraged to work on a secondary project that can maximize my skills and interests to impact needs identified by my community. I have some ideas for my secondary project including bee keeping but at this point they can only be ideas since I haven’t gotten to my community and seen what they might really need. But believe me, I am brainstorming!
I hope this post makes things much clearer to those that are curious as to what exactly I will be up to for the next 2 years. Until then, I suppose I will continue studying and preparing! Au revoir!