David Ringuette, Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer
From April 22 to May 8, 2019, I had the pleasure of working on a USAID Farmer-to-Farmer assignment in Nzerekore, Guinea, West Africa. The implementer for the assignment was Winrock International and this organization took very good care of me. After departing the capital, Conakry, my driver, translator, and I traveled 1000 kilometers by road to Nzerekore. It took about 22 hours of mostly bone-jarring roads.
Nzerekore is known as the forested region and produces oil palm (locally called red oil), rubber, cacao, and coffee. As this was my first time working with oil and rubber crops, I learned a lot about growing the crops and how the oil is processed. It is used locally for cooking and is highly sought after, especially as Ramadan was approaching.
My assignment was specifically to address pesticide safety issues focusing on the appropriate use of pesticide products and in the correct amount. The group was enthusiastic and asked many good questions. All of the farmers used glyphosate as an herbicide and much of my time was used to explain how to use the product most effectively. I use glyphosate on my farm so I was able to give the farmers first-hand knowledge.
Guinea is a warm and friendly country. I never felt threatened or uncomfortable. One evening I ate some food that made me a little ill and I had to take a day off from training. The day I was recuperating, a group of 8 farmers came to my hotel to wish me good health and offered to bring me food for a speedy recovery. The empathy shown was most welcomed.
Despite the physical hardships in this country, the eagerness of these farmers to learn and the warmth and hospitality they showed, made this assignment a very satisfying experience.