Sunday, May 14, 2006

I have a project! (sort of)

But first an update on my stage:

Back in January, 27 strangers met in Philadelphia with one thing in common: they all thought spending 2 years in Niger was a nifty idea. Shortly after meeting for the first time these 27 strangers were whisked away to one of the poorest countries in Africa. 4 days later the first one went home. But that's ok, he was still mostly a stranger, and there were still 26 of those.

After 2 weeks, everyone had gotten to know each other pretty well. So it was very sad when 2 more people decided to leave. Before training was over, 2 more had decided this wasn't for them, and went home.

We all hoped that would be the end. That those who made it through training would stick it out. Well, since then we've lost two more. Richard left after the first month at post. Seth left this weekend. We're gonna miss you guys. 27 strangers have been reduced to 20 friends who hate to see each other leave.

But enough of that melancholy business. I have a project to work on! The other day the school director in my village told me he wants my help in getting the students to start a peppiniere(sp?) which is basically a tree nursery. This will require getting seeds and little plastic bags to plant the trees in (Seth was kind enough to leave some of these for me, Thanks!). Fencing is also a must, unless we want them to be eaten by the cows and the goats.

I'm not going to start on this project until after IST (in service training) which is a week from now, becuase that's where we'll learn how to get funding and actually execute projects. But I've started figuring out what I need and what I need the school to do. It's nice to have direction again.

Now some of you may be saying "but Seabass, I though you were going there to take care of animals, not play with trees." Well I suppose I should fill you in on what it turns out my job is really.

Many of you remember that I got a nice little letter from peace corps that gave me the job title of Agriculture - Small Animal Husbandry Agent or something impressive sounding like that. Well it turns out those don't really mean much, as they just represent the need spot that you got picked to fill. The only part that matters, for my stage, is Agriculture vs Natural Resource Management (or AG and NRM). This determines what you will be trained in during stage.

During the tech sessions of training, the AG's basically did gardening activities and the NRM's did trees. The truth of the matter is really, that AG's and NRM's overlap a lot. This is why we are trained together (the health volunteers and the education volunteers are trained together). It also seems very much that AG vs NRM has almost no reflection on your background, as our stage has a lot philosophy, poli sci, and other non farming type majors. So the fact that I will now be doing a NRM project as an AG volunteer is not surprising, nor does it really matter as we're all basically just field volunteers. The titles just make it seem like we know something.

On the other hand, I am frequently told that Animal Husbandry, as opposed to Forestry, Agroforestry, Ag extension, etc., is one of the specialized job titles that actually means something. It just isn't necessarily the same as the initial job description you're sent back in the states. The long and short of it is that I have been placed in a herder village in order to work with some local organizations within the village and also some larger NGO's in the area that are involved with live stock. How this will manafest I have yet to learn, as we're told not to really start work for the first 3 months. But the basic jist is that at some point I'll be working with cows and possibly goats and sheep to try and improve the income and what not of the village.

I'm sure I'll learn a great deal more about all this when I go to IST in a week. In the mean time I can tell you that some agents of the International Livestock Research Fund are right down the road from my village, so hopefully I will get to work with them at some point. I was also introduced to a guy who works with Veterinarians Without Borders at swear in, but have yet to hear anything more about that.

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