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Winrock International

Volunteer Post

Interview with Ousmane Diallo: Championing Change Through Volunteerism

As we celebrate Global Volunteer Month, we are thrilled to feature Ousmane Diallo, a dedicated Program Officer at Winrock International, who has played a pivotal role in the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program. Ousmane’s journey from a rural village in Guinea to a leader in global development is a testament to his commitment to creating sustainable change through volunteerism. We asked Ousmane to reflect on the spirit of F2F and what makes the program so special.

What inspired you to work with Winrock and support its volunteer programs (F2F)?

“What inspired my involvement with Winrock International and my support for its volunteer programs, particularly the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) initiative, stems from a deep belief in the potential of grassroots efforts to enact sustainable change. Winrock’s dedication to empowering rural livelihoods, enhancing agricultural institutions such as national schools of agriculture (ENAEs), and fostering knowledge exchange through networks like the Guinea Agricultural Institutions Network (GAIN) deeply resonates with my personal values and career aspirations. Growing up in a rural village facing numerous development challenges, I am driven by a commitment to inclusive development.

The F2F program focuses on in-person volunteer assignments, pairing skilled volunteers with local counterparts to bolster the agriculture sector, aiming to increase productivity, enhance resilience to climate change, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This mission aligns closely with my passion for promoting inclusive development and fostering cross-cultural understanding. Witnessing the tangible impact of volunteers sharing their expertise and facilitating the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices further fuels my dedication to this cause.

Additionally, Winrock’s track record of innovation and effectiveness in implementing development projects worldwide, including in the USA, inspired me to join their team. I began as an intern in March 2016, progressed to a consultant role, and later became a program assistant in February 2017. Currently, I serve as a program officer since November 2023. Collaborating not only with local staff but also with the headquarters team provides me with an opportunity to contribute to addressing global development challenges.”

Based on your interactions, what seems to motivate volunteers the most when choosing a program like Winrock’s?

“Based on my interactions and observations, it is evident that volunteers are primarily motivated by the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in addressing global issues such as food security around the world. Winrock F2F programs offer volunteers a chance to directly contribute to sustainable development initiatives, particularly in the realm of agricultural practices, which resonates strongly with their desire to help communities worldwide achieve greater food security.

In addition, I believe that volunteers are attracted to Winrock’s programs because of the chance to engage in cross-cultural interactions and connect with individuals from diverse backgrounds, cultures, religions, and ethnicities. The prospect of traveling to new destinations and collaborating with local communities not only enhances volunteers’ personal growth but also facilitates the exchange of knowledge and ideas, fostering mutual learning and understanding.

Moreover, the combination of impactful, hands-on work in addressing critical global challenges like food security, coupled with the opportunity for cultural exchange and personal growth, serves as the primary motivation for volunteers when choosing a program like F2F.”

From your perspective, what impact does volunteering have on individuals and communities?

“Volunteering has a profound impact on both individuals and communities, fostering adaptability, flexibility, and patience as volunteers engage in their assignments in Guinea. Many volunteers actively seek to immerse themselves in the local culture, often by eating local meals prepared by community members, thereby developing mutual respect and appreciation.

Beyond these interpersonal interactions, volunteers contribute significantly to economic growth and income diversification within communities. By sharing their expertise and knowledge, volunteers empower local individuals and organizations to enhance their agricultural practices, thereby boosting productivity and generating new economic opportunities. This positive influence extends well beyond the duration of their assignment, as communities adopt the volunteers’ recommendations, thereby leaving a lasting legacy of empowerment, particularly in areas like gender equity and self-sufficiency.”

Mr. Ousmane Diallo, Program Officer at Winrock International, who has played a pivotal role in theF2F program in Guinea and globally.

Has working with volunteers influenced your views on volunteering? If so, how?

“Yes, working with volunteer has influenced my views in terms of volunteering. This are my next steps to also volunteer to further help my communities to boost economic growth in reduce poverty in the country.

Collaborating with volunteers during assignment implementation has significantly reshaped my perception of volunteering. Observing their unwavering dedication and the profound impact they make firsthand has been a profound catalyst for personal change. I now see volunteering not just as a noble act, but as an indispensable force for fostering community development and driving social change.

These experiences have a newfound passion within me to actively pursue volunteering opportunities in the future. Recognizing the transformative potential of volunteerism, I am committed to contribute my time and skills to initiatives aimed at protecting the environment, mitigating climate change, and advocating for gender equity and fair income distribution. Additionally, I am eager to engage in grassroots initiatives such as community-based monitoring, which prioritize local voices and perspectives in decision-making processes, and play a role in bolstering economic growth and alleviating poverty in my country as I am now doing it with Winrock F2F.”

Are there any particular stories or moments with volunteers that have left a lasting impression on you?

“Throughout my journey, there have been pivotal moments with volunteers that have deeply impacted me. Born and raised in a rural village in Guinea, I was instilled with the values of hard work and resilience from my father, which fueled my passion for development work. Witnessing the inequalities and challenges within my community further ignited my determination to make a difference.

In 2016, my path crossed with volunteers from Winrock during my internship. I vividly remember meeting Melani from headquarters, who came to Guinea to conduct impact surveys based on volunteers’ recommendations. Another significant encounter was with Mary Edward, who unfortunately passed away last year. I had the privilege of accompanying her into the field as a translator. Both Melani and Mary left a lasting impression on me, affirming their belief in my abilities and promising to recommend me for future opportunities with Winrock International.

Driven by a fervent desire to expand my expertise and contribute to global development efforts, I pursued an Advanced Master’s in Globalization and Development at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. My thesis on “Climate Change Risks on Agricultural Productivity: The Case of ECOWAS” underscores my commitment to addressing critical global issues affecting vulnerable communities.

Currently, as the Program Officer at West Africa Winrock Farmer to Farmer, I lead initiatives focused on promoting Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) and fostering inclusive income diversification and reducing GHG emissions. My responsibilities encompass project planning, volunteer coordination, engagement with women and youth agribusinesses in Guinea and Sierra Leone, needs assessments, drafting technical assistance plans, preparing scopes of work for volunteers, and monitoring project activities. These roles allow me to demonstrate my leadership skills and strategic vision, all while working towards sustainable development in West Africa.”

Ousmane with F2F volunteer Mr. Bob and counterparts in Kindia, Guinea.