Peace Corps Jobs for Agriculture Volunteers
By Frank Higdon
Take a moment to think about your impact on the world. If you’d like to increase that impact, consider joining the Peace Corps. You’ll see the world while you make a profound difference in the lives of your fellow humans and to the environments where they live.
The Peace Corps helps small-scale producers adapt farming practices to use the most appropriate techniques from the industrialized world. And the agency is seeking experienced Americans to serve as technical agricultural specialists in countries that need specific skills to develop a more sustainable and appropriately scaled commercial agricultural sector.
Small-scale commercial farms are the foundation for stable rural economies in many parts of the industrialized world and could be a more dynamic agricultural sector in the developing world. Small-scale farmers in many emerging economies are struggling to adapt their traditional farming techniques in the face of a rapidly changing climate and increasingly unstable agricultural markets. Unfortunately, as global agricultural markets expand, little attention has focused on the importance of small-scale producers in maintaining local food supplies. As a result, global food supplies are at historic lows, and this poses a threat to the food security of many developing nations.
Many policy makers are beginning to question how to best adapt industrial farming techniques for a small farmers. For example, if capital-intensive farming practices are really the answer, how can small-scale farmers use them in a way that increases their income while conserving and protecting their natural resources and traditional crops? Some observers worry that the increasing scale of industrial farming practices could negatively impact the long-term sustainability and profitability of small-scale farmers.
What do agriculture volunteers do?
While serving two years abroad as an agricultural volunteer might seem like an unus-ual opportunity for many agricultural scientists and farmers, nothing compares to the challenges and rewards of Peace Corps service. As valuable as your technical skills are at home, they can change lives when put to use as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Peace Corps volunteers serve overseas for 27 months and return to the United States as global citizens. They forge strong relationships in the communities in which they live and serve, and they empower farmers to engage in modern and commercial practices that will improve the quality of life for local families and communities.
The volunteers work closely with farmers to introduce effective cropping and soil conservation techniques and develop small-business projects to increase market opportunities.
From implementing soil conservation techniques – such as cover cropping, composting, contour planting – to promoting agroforestry techniques, such as integrating timber and fruit trees on farms, Peace Corps volunteers make positive changes on the ground level. They conduct field trials to increase crop production, teach intensive gardening techniques, promote small animal husbandry, help establish community banks, and work with farmers’ groups and cooperatives to improve organizational and business practices. Volunteers have a great deal of flexibility in their assignments to allow them to respond to the needs of the local community. In the Peace Corps, the needs of the local community come first.
The benefits of service
In addition to a life-defining leadership experience abroad, Peace Corps service offers considerable tangible benefits. The Peace Corps provides a stipend to cover daily living expenses, travel to and from post, and a bonus of more than $7,400 for those who complete a 27-month tour. Volunteers receive full medical and dental coverage while serving; can take advantage of Peace Corps career services; and may qualify for graduate school opportunities, advantages in federal employment, and student loan deferment and cancellation.
The world is getting smaller, and people are realizing that global problems demand local solutions. The Peace Corps is one way to be part of the solution to the challenges facing the world.
In the job market, employers value the skills that make for a successful volunteer. Learning a new language and exposure to new cultures allow volunteers to return home as global citizens. Without question, this agricultural experience is highly valued by numerous organizations including the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Agency for International Development, the National Park Service, USDA Extension Service, the U.S. Food and Nutrition Service, and many private corporations and public organizations seeking employees with commercial farming skills and international experience.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities in agricultural science, agroforestry, farm management and agribusiness, contact Frank Higdon at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Peace Corps website.
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