Farmers Helping Farmers - By Ralph Bucca
My last office was under a large mango tree in a corn field in the village of Cilovo, Nhamatanda District, Mozambique Africa. My assignment was to train the farmers how to process the locally grown nuts into peanut butter and create products that they can market. During my two week assignment, I worked with about 40 villagers, equal parts men and women, where we developed several different products such as peanut soup, peanut sauce, peanut butter/banana sandwiches, and some peanut candies.
I have been in the Farmer2Farmer program since 2005, participating in over twenty assignments in various third world countries, consulting locals on how to build solar food dryers and handle their food processing. My first assignment was in Northern Nigeria, which was my first time in Africa. I was both terrified and excited. They expected a solar food dryer expert, which at the time, I was not. Their idea of food drying was to throw it on the ground, unwashed and whole. I developed sanitation, cutting boards, and a simple window screen, which sat on four rocks, in the desert sun. For this, I was rewarded with two camel rides, and some beautifully colorful clothing.
While sexism runs rampant in Africa, I am lucky enough to work with a fairly balanced mix of men and women. I like to divide the work evenly when building the solar food dryers, so everyone can learn all the necessary skills, even though, I have noticed that the women will often outperform the men.
These countries come with many unique experiences, such as gathering and eating grasshoppers on Thanksgiving Day in Uganda. However, what I enjoy most is working with the villagers. Knowing that I am helping them learn tools that they can use for years to come is very exciting. Many of these villages are very primitive, with the villagers still using flint and steel to light their very basic fire circles. Despite this, the main thing I have learned from these assignments is to shut-up and listen. The locals often have a better way of doing things, they just need some tools and guidance.
Anyone with guts and farming skills can go on assignment as a volunteer with the Farmer2Farmer program. They provide you with a driver/translator, lodging, and food per diem. What you get is great experiences, and the satisfaction that you are providing people with the skills to better their lives. Various NGO's such as Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture, Winrock, Partners of the Americas, ACDI-Voca, and Land O’Lakes are often looking for new volunteers.
Ralph Bucca currently resides on the Lower, Slower Eastern Shore of MD. When he is not on assignments, he might be found avoiding winter trekking around the world with daughter, Kira. When home, Ralph could be kayaking, biking, winemaking or harassing his cat, Vicious.