The Master Farmer Program is a Peace Corps Senegal country wide initiative which provides technical support and resources for exceptional local farmers. These farmers along with their local PCVs maintain a 1 hectare plot of land on which they demonstrate a variety of improved agricultural techniques. Myself and Agroforestry volunteer, Sarah Ferguson, work with one of these Master Farmers, Fatou Willane. Throughout the year we have assisted her in implementing best agricultural practices from market garden plots to field crop systems, and agroforestry techniques. At the farm I have gained experience in implementing as well as educating others in almost all of the agricultural activities.
Upon arrival here, at the tail end of rainy season 2011, I assisted with vegetable nursery creation and maintenance followed by transplanting. This included soil nutrient management, proper spacing and watering, and chemical and non-chemical pest control. This was followed by tree nursery activities in which we planted multiple species of trees for live fencing, fruit production, and soil improvement. When the rains began I helped with the out-planting of these trees, including education on spacing and soil preparation techniques. Trees were planted along the chain link fence enclosing the field to be managed as a ‘live fence’. Others were planted in rows and interspersed in the field to demonstrate the value of fruit production and keeping roots and leaf litter in one’s growing space.
The rainy season commenced soil preparation for our field crop demonstrations Here we set up plots comparing the performance of corn, millet, and sorghum under high organic matter inputs plus fertilizer versus only broadcast fertilizer. We also laid peanut shells into our corn plot as a layer of mulch to demonstrate the water holding benefits of soil cover. A series of four plots of beans compares three pest management techniques, plus a control; neem oil (organic pesticide), chemical pesticide, and insect traps. A rice demonstration compared machine seeded rice to a plot hand seeded and thinned to one plant per hill, some SRI techniques. It is now time to begin dry season vegetable production again, as when I first arrived.
The field is a place for the entire community to view these techniques and learn from the Master Farmer. This year we held an event to present our field crop demonstrations and a description of the even can be found here.
I visit the farm at least once per week to answer questions of the Master Farmer and her family as well as community members. I assist in implementing gardening or field crop protocols and I manage the budget funded to the farm by the USAID Food Security Initiative.