Friday, November 16, 2012

Moussa Diallo: Diaries from a Master Farmer

Within two weeks of my install, Moussa Diallo approached me with an interest in working together on a few projects he had in mind, and as a new volunteer I put him through a stronger vetting process to gauge his motivation and commitment. Very quickly Moussa proved himself to be extremely dynamic, patient, helpful, and knowledgeable as both a teacher and student.  Moussa was and will continue to be indispensible for future volunteers’ linguistic, cultural, and technical progress.  Despite leaving school at 15 years old to start farming to support the family, Moussa speaks perfect French, along with Pulaar, Wolof, and Bajaraanke, a minority Guinean language. He understands a surprising amount of English and makes note of the English names of techniques especially in relation to the field of Agriculture and Agroforestry. A natural teacher and curious individual Moussa will also do great things as a Master Farmer.

The Master Farmer Program is a relationship between Peace Corps and a well-respected individual farmer selected for his dynamic attitude, motivation, curiosity, and teaching ability. Every volunteer is not expected to find a Master Farmer; a Master Farmer finds a volunteer.  I recognized Moussa Diallo’s potential for this position early in my service, but it was his commitment throughout my two years that sealed his nomination. Through Moussa’s new relationship with Peace Corps he will be taught by official Peace Corps training staff in the best techniques for gardening, field crops, and Agroforestry. After being properly trained, Moussa then takes these techniques to a 1 hectare field, he already owns, for implementation.  Food Security Program funds (USAID) pay for the space to be fenced, a well to be dug, a storage shed and water basins to be built, and a full set of tools to be purchased.  After the site has been sufficiently set-up and the techniques established, Food Security funds also cover the cost of “Open Field Days” where the volunteer and Master Farmer hold trainings for other farmers in the local area. The project allows the Master Farmer to greatly improve his yield capacity while also extending these techniques to others in proper local languages and, in theory, for the remainder of time the Master Farmer is at that site. This is a much longer timetable compared to the 5 volunteer, 10 year average life of Peace Corps' involvement in an individual site.

Aside from my own trainings and lessons, Moussa attended his first formal Peace Corps staff-led Master Farmer Training in May 2012. He will continue to be periodically trained at the Thies Training Center.  With the remaining few months of my service in Pakour Moussa and I were able to begin establishing the infrastructure for the Master Farmer site. Approval from Peace Corps came in April, and Moussa and I began our search for a well-digger and began a tree nursery of live fencing thorny trees. The project’s well-digger presented a number of obstacles to completing the project in a timely manner, and unfortunately it was not finished until early September 2012, in the middle of the rainy season.  Given this reality, additional funding has been provided for deepening the well upon dry-up anticipated for spring 2013. In addition to the well, the chain-link fence has been established enclosing the entirety of the property.  Immediately inside the chain-link fence, over the course of a week in August 2012, Moussa and I outplanted a live fence consisting of 290 Acacia nilotica, 133 Acacia laeta, and 115 Parkinsonia Aculaeta mixed together. These thorny trees will be continuously groomed to grow together and make an unattractive barrier to goats, sheep, cows, and children.  Also, to date, all of the tools have been purchased to fully outfit the project. Remaining infrastructure establishment work that will be completed before replacement installation includes: the storage shed and 2 water basins.

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