Today’s blog post is from Roger Engstrom, a seasoned Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer. Roger has volunteered five times in Africa since January 2015 with Winrock and other implementers of the program. Most recent, Roger volunteered in Senegal and provided his provided technical assistance to the Horticulture Initiation Center of Saint Louis on agricultural mechanization:
“I was afforded a very warm reception at the Winrock office in Dakar and driven to Saint Louis, the former capital of the country, where I stayed in a hotel amongst government buildings, some of which were part of the slave trade.
The two weeks spent in Senegal, working with the director, staff and entrepreneurs associated with the Horticulture Training Institute, were a delight. The purpose of the assignment was to put into operation a rototiller which had never been used because it was in disrepair, and to develop a curricula for mechanized seed bed preparation and weed control.
I had some reservations when we went to get the tiller out, put air in the tires and assemble the various attachments. Particularly because the participants were wearing ‘city shoes’. My concern was unfounded, they put on rubber boots and were very enthusiastic about learning the theory of soil improvement as well as doing the hands on assembling and adjusting the tiller. Each wanted to operate the tiller as much as possible. It is a heavy, clumsy machine, so all participated until stamina was exhausted!
The following week included a conference of farm staff from several farms set up to encourage young people to engage in agriculture, rather than move to cities. Most of the learning was hands-on. Each day we traveled to a farm and the host staff explained the purpose of the farm and problems. That led to learning about diesel engines, generators, wells, pumps, filters, and drip irrigation. Tractor maintenance, machinery purpose, adjustment and operation were also observed. At a dairy farm, we discussed animal husbandry concerns and learned about milking equipment. By observing and asking questions, the participants learned much and took a load of things home to consider for their farm. We could have taken another week to explore more, as the questions and dialog were lively.
Finally, because I do not know French, special thanks goes to both interpreters who made a tremendous contribution.”