Click Here to view an illustrated account of a day in the life of Sustainable Agriculture volunteers!
The Sustainable Agriculture & Food Security Service-Learning Program is especially suitable for those interested in agriculture and food security, environmental science, natural resources, ecology, international development, public health or related fields. However, prior agricultural experience is not required, so volunteers from all backgrounds are invited to participate in this program. You must simply have a desire to give something back to the community, and a willingness to work hard and get dirty! The Sustainable Agriculture & Food Security Program requires a two-week minimum commitment but can be extended to three months or more and may, for longer stays include other programmatic modules by participating in the Integrated Service-Learning Program. The Sustainable Agriculture Service-Learning Program starts off with a week-long orientation and technical training followed by participation in a variety of community training workshops to promote food security. The workshops conducted during your program will depend on the needs of the community at that time.
Resulting from rural development projects funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and other funding sources, and in collaboration with Partners for Development, an international partner NGO, Global Service Corps (GSC) has expanded its work to include a package of community trainings to villages in rural areas. Women's groups, people affected by HIV/AIDS, Maasai and other indigenous cultures are amongst those populations served in the rural areas. Trainings on bio-intensive agriculture, keyhole garden construction, and building rainwater catchment storage “hafirs” are just some aspects of what GSC is doing in an effort to reach its goal of increasing food security and improving the nutrition and health of Tanzania’s most vulnerable populations. HIV/AIDS Prevention and Nutrition Education Program volunteers occasionally work alongside the Sustainable Agriculture team to educate community groups about the importance of good nutrition for healthy living.
During your first week in Tanzania, you and your fellow volunteers will attend cultural orientation conducted at the GSC office, which includes Swahili lessons, information on safety, culture, and the history of Tanzania, as well as guest lectures on gender issues, home-based care, and living with HIV. During this time you will also receive technical training in bio-intensive agriculture at GSC's demonstration plot on the office grounds. At the conclusion of the week you will find yourself prepared with the knowledge and tools needed to assist in conducting workshops in the community alongside GSC’s team of experts! It is not practical to be proficient in all of the food security innovations after the one-week orientation, so participants will continue to receive in-the-field training throughout the duration of their program.
Sustainable Agriculture Program participants along with GSC staff involved with rural trainings will be accommodated in tents at base camps around the villages trained for each given workweek, returning to the homestay at the end of the week. Volunteers are part of a team including GSC staff delivering a package of food security innovations for rural village trainings. Whether you are an experienced camper or a novice, worry not! GSC provides all needed equipment including sleeping bags, mats, and tents. You will stay in a secure area, usually in the compound of the village leader, and a local mama will prepare meals for the group. Volunteers find staying in the village culturally rewarding as they have time to visit with community members and truly experience rural Tanzanian life.
There are a variety of rural trainings in the Sustainable Agriculture Program. During your service-learning placement, your participation in these various activities will depend on the in-country scheduling logistics and the needs of the community. In the first week of orientation, you will be given a more specific overview of your day-to-day schedule.
Training in Bio-Intensive Agriculture
Assisting experienced GSC staff members, you will train farmers in bio-intensive agriculture (BIA), which is a method of small-scale organic farming that involves using double-dug beds, composting, intensive planting, and companion planting to increase crop yields.
Keyhole Gardens offer Tanzanian families a method of sustaining vegetable gardens in unfavorable conditions. Keyhole Gardens are built using recycled materials that help to maintain soil moisture and improve soil health by providing onsite composting. Training families how to construct and care for these gardens increases the fresh produce that is available to communities in both rural and urban settings.
Seed nurseries provide families with a place to germinate and grow seedlings before transplanting them int a Keyhole Garden or double-dug bed. Seed nurseries require less water and provide conditions that are favorable to young seedlings. By starting seeds off right, the plants mature into healthy vegetable crops that produce higher yields.
Training families with limited space and resources on how to build sack gardens provides them with a sustainable means of growing vegetables and improving their diets.
Building Rainwater Catchments, "Hafirs"
In many areas of Tanzania, water shortage is a serious problem. Without water, it is impossible to grow home gardens and keep livestock alive. Building a hafir, a 12 m3 water storage trench lined with plastic or clay, can collect enough rain water to maintain a garden or sustain livestock through the dry season.
The following food security technologies have been used successfully in some of our past trainings. When appropriate, and with adequate funding these methods may again be utilized in the future:
Training in Poultry Vaccinations
year in Tanzania, Newcastle Disease kills 70% of the chicken
population, which has an especially significant impact on poor
households that rely on chickens for food and income generation. By
vaccinating poultry against this life threatening disease, chickens will
live longer thereby being able to produce more eggs and grow larger for
Improved Grain Storage
Grain store training helps rural communities alter their traditional grain stores and reduce the current average losses, which exceed 40% from field to table. Training the local community on improved grain storage techniques and tools allows them to reduce the field-to-table losses.
Food Drying Trainings
Typical on-farm losses from field to table exceed 50% due to the lack of food preservation knowledge and methods. These trainings include alternative low-cost drying structures, education about appropriate drying methods, and sessions on how to reconstitute the dried foods for preparation and use in cooking.
There may also be portions of the Sustainable Agriculture Program during which you will stay at your homestay throughout the entire workweek and participate in activities in or near Arusha. These activities may include follow-up trainings to groups previously trained in bio-intensive agriculture (BIA), working on the GSC demonstration plot, or assisting orphanages in establishing BIA gardens. You may also work parallel to the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Nutrition Program to educate HIV positive people, their families and orphans about BIA, and help HIV positive groups build sack gardens.
You will no doubt have a rewarding experience helping increase the food security of families in rural areas, but working in remote villages will also give you the opportunity to truly experience the hospitality of this amazing country and to see parts of Tanzania rarely visited by the average tourist!