L-R: Jen Snow, Associate Director; Ibro Diallo, Guinea Country Director; Mike Bassey, Nigeria Country Director
Mike Bassey joined Winrock International in April 2011. Mike is a Certified Accountant and has a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Roehampton, London. Before his work with F2F, Mike managed the Drucker Center for Entrepreneurship Development (DCED) of the Kaduna Business School before joining the World Bank/Government of Nigeria Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) project. Working with Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) volunteers has in many ways strengthened Mike’s motivation to do his own volunteering. In his free time Mike heads a Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God as a volunteer Pastor and enjoys fixing simple plumbing and carpentry.
I started out just like most young Nigerians: not wanting to study or have anything to do with farming or agriculture; I wanted to become a certified accountant. After achieving that goal and working in a for-profit, efficiency-driven environment, I felt professionally unfulfilled. However, when I began managing a World Bank/Government of Nigeria agricultural and tourism value chains development program focusing on opportunities for smallholder farmers to increase productivity, income and overall improve their livelihoods, it opened my eyes to the how rewarding the agriculture sector could be.
Working with smallholder farmers was wonderful but working with F2F volunteers who each come with different skills offered me the opportunity to learn a lot and I now know what it takes to be a beekeeper, fish farmer, and trainer; increasing my skills in organizational development, institutional assessments, partnership development, recordkeeping, leadership, campaigning for safe pesticide use For instance, with:
Leslie Harris Cosgrove – I learned about business and project development for grant funding. I learned about the components and the documents (strategic plan, revenue-raising plan, and platform statement) required for successful grant proposal writing as well as the art of winning grant proposal writing. Two of the most resounding experience working with a) Leslie was seeing the faculty of the Osun State Polytechnic, Iree, Osun State rise from a practically zero Ph.D. research grants to 26 Ph.D.D research grants in three years following the 2015 training to the leaders and faculty of the institution; and b) the formation of the Net which she co-facilitated with Professor Chris Igodan of the Ohio State University.
A group leader delivers the groups project to the volunteer
Mathew Baker, a professor from the Texas Tech University –Dr. Baker and I had several great discussions on leadership development and managing people. It was a huge surprise when, upon returning to the US, Dr. Baker asked me to do a one-page write-up on ‘community extension service’ – one of the topics we discussed during his visit. This resulted in a paper that was jointly presented by Baker and me at a conference at the Ohio State University.
Volunteer with Mike (center) and host members
Jolene Warnke-Roszel – I learned about the dangers inherent in abuse and pesticides misuse; to the applicators, farmers and their families, livestock, communities as well as consumers through air pollution, contamination of source of drinking water and farm products. I also learned about ways to minimize the hazards associated with these chemicals.
Jennifer Kushner – I learned lessons about general monitoring and evaluation and specifically learned how to develop a program logic model. I worked with the volunteer and the Nigeria F2F team to develop a logic model for the Network for Agricultural Technical Education’s Making Agriculture Glamorous and Attractive to Nigerian Youth Initiative.
Volunteer (center) with host members and Mike (right)
Teresa Morris – I learned so much about sustainable agricultural practices – best practices in natural resource (soil and water) maximization and management, composting, etc.
Volunteer discusses with the village leader
I have always considered myself fortunate to interact with these highly skilled professionals and benefit from these relationships. Especially since they provide me with a huge resource base for me to continue to leverage. The new program presents me with yet another excellent opportunity to continue to deepen my learning experience.