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Winrock International

Volunteer Post

A defining moment, in Bangladesh

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”-Benjamin Franklin

A defining moment, one that irrefutably changes the trajectory of what is to come, often only occurs once or twice in lifetime. My trip to Bangladesh, which sought to improve molecular diagnostics used to recognize shrimp diseases more efficiently and accurately, may best be described as just that, a defining moment of my life.

Education has served as a cornerstone in my life, a way to explore the world of both concrete objects and intangible thought. As Franklin said in the quote above, I truly believe that few things in life pay better long-term dividends than the act of knowledge transfer.

Improving the sustainability of aquaculture, both locally and internationally, is an issue close to my heart. Therefore, when I was given the chance to share my knowledge through the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer program and Winrock International, I jumped at it!  I was excited to travel to Bangladesh in order to work in conjunction with Khulna University in furthering that goal of sustainability.  Since returning, my enthusiasm has not dissipated. While in the beautiful and eclectic country of Bangladesh, I was greeted by fantastic staff, wonderful support, and eager students.  The main scope of the work that we accomplished was the use of a microbial cloning technique that allowed for the creation of a positive-control which detects an insidious viral shrimp pathogen when using polymerase chain reaction (PCR). In short, the development of this positive-control will allow for a more accurate classification of disease status.

The paramount importance of this positive-control lies in the fact that it can help farmers decide which shrimp they want to stock.  Shrimp and prawn farming in Bangladesh is extremely important as a means to provide both nutritional and economic support for the local populations. However, recently the economic viability of shrimp farming has been challenged by the emergence, and rampant spread of, the white spot syndrome virus (WSSV). This disease can be detected through PCR, but until recently, we were not able to determine if a negative-result meant shrimp were truly virus-free or that the test merely failed to recognize the DNA.  Now, through the collaboration of myself, and truly exceptional researchers, Drs. Nazmul Ashan and Arun K. Dhar, Khulna University has the means to develop many more effective tests. These new techniques will allow farmers to stock pathogen-free brood stock, female shrimp, or juveniles and thus help mitigate the spread of WSSV.

I am extremely grateful for this chance to travel and share my knowledge. In doing so, I gained innumerable benefits, of which I will try and name a few: a deeper understanding of research in the field, a network of professionals whom I can work with throughout my career for the mutual betterment of all parties, a new perspective on my own ability to contribute to knowledge transfer, and lastly, cultural interactions that improved my own perception of a part of the world I formerly knew little about.

I look forward to future collaboration, and believe that this project allowed for the addition of one more piece to the complex puzzle that is sustainable aquaculture.

As for me personally, the impact of this assignment is as of yet to be fully determined, but what I can say is this, my defining moment, that moment that has now irrefutably changed the trajectory of my life’s course, was the moment I realized that one person, although potentially incapable of changing the entire world, through collaboration and determination can improve it any day; all she must do is choose that course.

–Rachel Bone, Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer, Bangladesh