Having had the once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to Guinea earlier this year, I was ecstatic to receive word of the possibility of continuing pesticide safety work in the beautiful mountain village of Dabola remotely. For those unfamiliar with the West African Country, agriculture in Guinea is diverse and impressive, with many cooperatives producing a wide array of tropical and traditional food crops promoting food security and enriching economies throughout the region. Shea butter and peanuts are important niche crops for the area, and unfortunately, they are susceptible to a wide variety of pest insects, fungi, and diseases. Training focused on identifying and diagnosing these issues as well as how to treat using sustainable practices. Less pesticide use not only ensures safety personally and environmentally, but also reduces overall costs to growers. Increased safety measures, including personal protective equipment (which we are all too familiar with, living in the times of COVID) were also discussed and encouraged.
Training from 4,790 Miles Away
One of the assets of having been to Guinea prior is that the wonderful in country team had taken the time to take me to markets to see exactly what pesticide, fertilizer, and fungicides were available to the growers. This knowledge made it so much easier to come up with a management plan that was realistic for the cooperative to follow. I was also teamed up with another amazing volunteer to serve as my translator, Elizabeth Bloom in Arkansas. We were able to meet over zoom before, during, and after the training to brainstorm ideas, do Q & A videos, and strengthen the material. In our case, remote was not limiting in the least! In fact, I would argue it created unique opportunities to work with others to strengthen and tailor programs to uniquely serve the needs of the cooperative groups of farmers. Many of the farmers have since continued the connection, sending photos, asking questions which has continued to add value and help proved to be a great way for me to stay involved. Having completed many F2F assignments, the remote opportunities have allowed for fluidity and a chance to stay connected to groups long after assignment is over, which has not been such a present feature in the in-person assignments. That being said, I will be on the first plane over if the opportunity to follow up in-person presents itself!
Call to Action
Anyone who may be on the fence regarding remote assignments should take the opportunity if they have it! It’s a wonderful way to extend your connection past the usual two weeks and it will help you improve the scope of your work in the long term. I cannot say enough about the Guinea Winrock team. Their kindness, dedication, humor, and drive will encourage any volunteer that their work is important and worthwhile.