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Winrock Farmer-to-Farmer Regional Meeting in West Africa

NPCA’s International Programs Coordinator Bethany Leech recently attended Winrock’s Farmer-to-Farmer West Africa Regional Meeting in Senegal. She shares her experience below.

As an RPCV, I love opportunities that allow me to get back “in the field,” connecting with people on the ground in other countries: exchanging knowledge, building relationships, and collaborating on projects. I was fortunate to be able to do just that in my role as NPCA’s International Programs Coordinator in November 2019 when I attended the Winrock Farmer-to-Farmer West Africa Regional Meeting in Senegal. Being a new NPCA staff member, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but in true Peace Corps fashion, with an open mind and a willingness to embrace whatever I found, my two weeks in West Africa had me feeling like I was right back in my Peace Corps Service! This was my first time in West Africa and I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the region.

I spent the first week working alongside the Winrock U.S.-based Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) project implementation team and the Winrock F2F Country Directors who lead the project offices in Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Ghana, and Nigeria. The Winrock staff in Senegal graciously hosted us and, over the week, we reflected on the past year of implementation and planned for the next year. NPCA partners with Winrock to recruit expert volunteers to fulfill F2F short- and long-term assignments in West Africa. Winrock values the great experience, local knowledge, and language skills RPCVs bring with them when they fulfill a F2F assignment, and we reflected on how we can offer more opportunities for RPCVs to be redeployed in service.

 

 

Another distinct part of the regional meeting was the opportunity for the U.S.-based team to visit with host organization who request F2F volunteers. By learning and hearing how F2F volunteers have impacted these host organizations, I was able to better understand the important partnership F2F brings to the region. F2F volunteers bring technical expertise to rural, often inaccessible communities that have requested specific skills that they have identified as needed to improve their community. Like Peace Corps service, F2F assignments are all community driven, and volunteers are invited into communities to share and learn collaboratively.

 

 

Spending time with this group of dedicated people, both country and U.S.- based teams, was incredible. Building relationships with each team member was unforgettable and I now feel I have many more friends who share a passion for continuing to increase our global social impact through the ideals of Peace Corps. And we also had a lot of fun together! We explored local markets, tasted new foods, and had many stimulating conversations about differences and similarities between our countries.

My second week was spent visiting the Winrock F2F office in Guinea. My colleague and counterpart on the Winrock U.S.-based team and I got to work alongside the Guinea staff and plan on F2F priorities specific to Guinea. Together with Winrock’s Country Director, we visited two host organizations in Guinea. The first was the Federation of Fruit Growers, which benefited from a F2F volunteer who taught them organizational leadership skills. The beneficiaries who received training from the F2F volunteer traveled from the other side of the country just to speak with us and tell us the impact the training had on them.

The second site visit was with the Peace Corps Office in Guinea. I met with Peace Corps Guinea Country Director, Brian Cavanagh, and the Agroforestry Volunteer support team. Peace Corps Guinea has partnered with Winrock Farmer-to-Farmer several times to provide advanced technical training for Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV) and their counterparts. These trainings have allowed PCVs and their counterparts to become trainers in the specific technical scope, bringing that knowledge back to their sites to train community members.

 

 

My experience traveling to West Africa and learning from the Winrock F2F teams operating there was immensely informative. To be able to make a human-to-human connection is at the heart of my Peace Corps experience and I am entirely grateful to have had the opportunity to do that in West Africa.

To find out more about NPCA’s partnership with Winrock’s Farmer-to-Farmer Program and to review and apply for F2F short-term assignments in West Africa, please visit NPCA’s international volunteers page.

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