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Winrock International

Volunteer Post

So Much More Than Assignment Numbers

Olivia Caillouet

Since the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program was created in 1985, the volunteer technical assistance process has relied on volunteer recruiters to connect technical experts with host organizations in partnering countries. Our newest recruiter, Olivia recently returned from a visit to Senegal where she got to meet staff and the people who work with F2F every day. She recently graduated with a doctoral degree in agricultural education and communication from the University of Florida. Olivia has loved international development work since her first study abroad experiences in 2016 when she spent 1 month working at an agricultural school in Mozambique.

In general, there are four main steps for a volunteer recruiter – securing a volunteer, mobilization (for in-person assignments), assignment implementation, and assignment closure. I have become acquainted with flight itineraries, expense reports, visa processes, and other technical aspects of assisting volunteers with their assignments. Currently, Winrock’s F2F program works in Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Mali, and Senegal. About three months after starting, I was given the opportunity to travel to Senegal to support Winrock’s F2F efforts. This trip taught me more about Winrock’s in-country F2F operations, host organizations, and how to better communicate travel expectations to future volunteers.

While in Senegal, I had the privilege to meet with members of two host organizations – AMIDEF (Alliance of the Integrated Masses for the Development of Women’s Entrepreneurship Network) and COFLEC (Coalition of Women Against Illegal Immigration).

My meeting with Madame Ba at AMIDEF taught me about the wide range of agricultural products that F2F assignments have assisted with and the far-reaching impacts these assignments have on AMIDEF members across Senegal. AMIDEF has empowered women to learn soap creation, fruit and vegetable preservation techniques, and is now branching out into agricultural-based cosmetics. In addition, AMIDEF members have worked with F2F to increase pre-packaged meals that incorporate culturally important foods, and nutrition, and are readily available for purchase by busy city-dwellers in the capital – Dakar. I am looking forward to finding dedicated volunteers for upcoming assignments in 2023 that will support AMIDEF’s mission to empower women entrepreneurship such as SEN329 – Essential Oils Making Techniques for Soap and Cosmetics.

My visit with Madame Bayam at COFLEC was an extremely personal experience in which she described losing her son at sea while he was seeking job opportunities abroad. Madame Bayam has dedicated herself to supporting agricultural-related job opportunities that encourage Senegalese not to take dangerous boat trips in search of employment abroad. It was incredible to see the sustainability impacts of a recent F2F assignment which taught COFLEC members how to create paper bags to lessen the use of plastic and encourage local production of necessary business supplies. COFLEC has served as a host organization for many assignments on topics such as leadership and business management, fruit and vegetable processing, and body care products production. I am inspired by COFLEC’s commitment to increasing the quality of agricultural-product availability, improving their surrounding marine environment, and advocating for women’s empowerment throughout Senegal.

My recent trip familiarized me with the Senegalese in-country F2F team and gave me a chance to support ongoing programmatic efforts. Most importantly, this trip helped me understand that F2F assignments are so much more than assignment numbers, itineraries, and expense reports. Winrock’s F2F assignments are life-changing – promoting job opportunities, supporting gender equality, and encouraging climate-smart agriculture. This trip helped me better understand the interconnected components which must come together for a successful F2F assignment. F2F relies on expert volunteers (U.S. citizens, and National volunteers), support from our F2F in-country colleagues, receptive host organizations, and help from Winrock’s headquarters. I am happy to have returned to my home office energized and inspired to connect technical experts in the U.S. with our F2F host organizations to improve livelihoods and food security.