This week’s blog comes from F2F volunteer, Erin Riley, sharing thoughts from her Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer experience in Nigeria earlier this spring:
“As I got off the plane in Lagos, Nigeria the anxiety of what I was about to encounter was enormous. I put on my Winrock hat and pin that would identify me when I arrived at the airport. I thought to myself were the PowerPoint’s that I worked on ready? Did I fully know what the situation of power and computer programs were going to be at the college? and would my material be compatible with what the situation was at the college? Would the people in Zaria accept what I was going to introduce to them?
After a few days, I arrived in Kaduna by plane. The country director Mike Bassey accompanied me on the flight from Lagos. As the plane descended into the airport, I could see thatched roofed huts just outside the city. There was a haze of smoke that wafted through the air. There were trees that stood between grassland and areas where farmers were burning the savannahs. We met Blessing at the airport, my driver, and then started the hour-long journey to Zaria.
As I arrived in Zaria and met the college president, provost, and other dignitaries, they met me with a welcoming message and a thank you for taking the time to visit their college. When I met my class of about 31 students, 12 female and 19 male, I felt more at ease. The power in the classroom was intermittent but they fired up a generator so I could use the computer and projector. My 10 days in Zaria were some of the most amazing that I have ever had. We worked on pedagogical skills, curriculum development and program level assessment. We were able to do one field day at an agriculture research college and I went over some rangeland monitoring techniques.
The women wore beautiful dresses and the men wore tunics. At the end of my 10 days there, I had come to get to know these faculty well. They were very grateful that I was able to come and wanted to have more people come into Nigeria and help teach them skills in dairy production, soap making, and other skills that can generate jobs. The faculty and provost gave me a beautiful leather purse that was made locally and three beautiful necklaces that were made from people in the area. They wanted me to make a speech…. We have to engage our communities and make sure we talk to one another, and not isolate people because we are afraid of their culture. As I started saying these things, tears started to well up in my eyes. One of the ladies in the front row ran up to give me a tissue. I’m not a crier, but the kindness of the people of Zaria made me feel so much hope for the future of our world that I couldn’t help it. I hope that they felt some thread of that same from my visit there.I hope to return to Zaria in the next few months, if my job allows.”