Bonjour from Senegal, where I’m starting my fourth USAID Farmer to Farmer (F2F) volunteer assignment. I volunteered via ACDI/VOCA previously (Jordan, Ghana and Viet Nam), and am with NCBA CLUSA this time. Thanks to Jane (CLUSA program manager), Abibou (in-country F2F coordinator) and the host association for putting things together so well! F2F is a great program with diverse opportunities for Americans to transfer skills and knowledge to entities across the agricultural value chain, from farmers and associations to processors and exporters; in areas such as production, post-harvest, processing, marketing, organizational development, business management, curriculum development; and evaluation. I can’t recommend it enough!
My task is to train the Association Relais et Volontaire pour la Nutrition Communautaire (Relais et VNC), on marketing/social marketing (“selling” behavioral change). Relais et VNC is based in the Matam region, which has one of the nation’s highest rates of malnutrition, and works to end malnutrition and improve livelihoods. It unites VNCs, who are trained by CLUSA’s Yaajende project and volunteer as community educators focusing on maternal and child health; and Relais, who are liaisons between village producer associations, and a regional farmers’ union and the Yaajeende project.
Members undertake promotion and training on nutrition, sanitation, income diversification, home gardening and sustainable agricultural practices such as composting and conservation agriculture. The members also make and sell products such as enriched cereal mixes, fruit powders, iodized salt and compost.
The day after arriving in Dakar, Senegal, we traveled to Matam, in the northeast. The trip took about eight hours, with stops for lunch, tea, etc. Outside the capital, the terrain was mostly desert dotted with drought-tolerant trees; goats, cattle and other livestock; and homes. We passed many produce stands selling oranges, mandarins, apples, bananas and melons—local except apples and some citrus. I didn’t get good photos but you can view some on a past volunteer’s volunteer’s excellent blog. Matam is hot – in the 70’s in the morning and the low 100’s during the day.
Today, day three, we met with Relais et VNC’s board to outline the training schedule. We’ll visit several villages over the next two days to learn about their activities and communities. Then, I’ll finalize the training outline, provide seven two-day trainings (via Abibou’s translation) to subsets of the association, and debrief with the board. After that, we return to Dakar where I’ll spend one day, and fly home.
We had lunch at Abibou’s home today: rice cooked in a tomato tamarind chili sauce, topped with with African eggplant, Euro eggplant, cabbage, taro, sorrel, carrot and fish. It’s always an honor and a treat to be invited into one’s home for a meal. I eat an almost exclusively vegan diet, and enjoyed the flavorful veggies on the perimeter. Sweet tea and fruit followed the entrée. Thank you Abibou!