“Welcome What Will Change You as You Change the World!” – Interview with Winrock International Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Champion Dr. Onesimus Otieno
In Honor of Black History Month, Winrock International's Farmer-to-Farmer Program Recognizes and Celebrates Winrock International's Farmer-to-Farmer Program Volunteer Champion, Dr. Onesimus Otieno
Danika Lam & Eric M. Washington
As an organization committed to sustainable and equitable agriculture and rural development, the Winrock International Farmer-to-Farmer Program would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and honor the significant contributions and impact that the Black Diaspora has had on the agriculture industry in the United States. For centuries, Black farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers have played a critical role in shaping and sustaining our food systems, despite facing systemic discrimination and barriers to land ownership and access to resources. Their contributions have been vital to the success and diversity of the American agriculture sector, yet their stories and legacy have often been overlooked or undervalued. We understand this is a long-term commitment and that much work must be done. However, we are committed to being a part of the solution and working toward a future where Black farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers are honored, respected, and have the necessary resources and support to thrive. This is why we at Winrock International’s Farmer-to-Farmer Program would like to recognize and honor the work of one of our Volunteer Champions, Dr. Onesimus Otieno.
Dr. Onesimus Otieno is a passionate advocate for international development and an experienced volunteer with Winrock. Onesimus has gained valuable experience and confidence through his volunteer work with Winrock, allowing him to develop networks and obtain international experience. Dr. Onesimus Otieno a committed and passionate F2F Volunteer. As a Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer with Winrock International, Dr. Otieno shares his teaching and information technology expertise to benefit farmers and communities in Senegal, Nigeria, and beyond. Dr. Otieno has been praised for understanding his audience and tailoring his teaching to their specific needs. Dr. Otieno’s dedication to this work has made a lasting impact, with Hosts and fellow Volunteers reporting increased knowledge and enthusiasm for their work due to Dr. Otieno’s leadership. As a F2F Volunteer, Dr. Otieno has also gained a global perspective that has impacted his professional focus and worldview. He recognizes our world’s interconnectedness and the impact each individual can have on others.
What makes you passionate about the Farmer-to-Farmer Program, and why do you feel you can be such a strong advocate?
I represent the many whose lives have been transformed by the experiences we gain abroad. I discovered how much impact a single individual can make in a community. At each of my eight assignments, I have learned how to apply my technical skills in different contexts. I discovered new things about myself as I was stretched beyond my comfort zones. My world is now a lot wider. I have more confidence in my skills and have a more extensive global network of colleagues. The skills I learn abroad have made me better back home, and I can more effectively mentor others toward global awareness.
Why do you think it’s vital for BIPOC to participate? What is the purpose and importance of having a DEI initiative?
The importance of the DEI initiative is to mainstream BIPOC into all activities. This represents a more complete spectrum of Americans to the world. Many countries experience marginalization of minority groups, and the DEI initiative demonstrates an atmosphere of inclusion. Demonstrating inclusion by example will help motivate our host partners to do the same. The authenticity of being inclusive within will go a long way to give our hosts a sense of inclusion where they perceive themselves as colleagues and peers.
What are the benefits of Volunteering with Winrock?
The projects are very well vetted, and all plans are put in place to use time and resources efficiently. The assignments are well coordinated by very efficient and professional staff. This happens from the day you first declare interest to follow-up after the project in networking with new and old volunteers. I have been to eight assignments, and they all were very well coordinated.
What advice would you give a new Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer?
Please welcome what will change you as you change the world! The Winrock International staff does a great job of matching your skills to the assignment and provides all the support you need to be successful. This reduces the anxiety associated with working in unfamiliar environments. The assignments are long enough to create an impact and have a meaningful experience of the local culture and environment. The assignment is also short enough to fit into a busy schedule with multiple conflicting priorities.