Trainings are in many ways the heart of the Peace Corps Senegal program. Whether I am teaching a technique to a friend, or hosting 20 local farmers for a multifaceted event, trainings are an opportunity to teach my work partners new skills. This post will show you what it looks like to host a training on grafting for about 15 people.
For months my work partners requested a training on grafting. Grafting is an agroforestry technique for fruit trees where a branch which produces better fruit is added to a young tree, so in the future it may produce better fruit. When the time came my counterpart Aliou and I organized a training with 15 farmers and three Volunteers to teach grafting, pruning, and tree care.
The day before the training two of the agroforestry Volunteers in my region, Melissa and Kelsey, arrived to prepare for the training. Together, we traveled to the field where the training was being hosted to check out the trees we would be working with. Materials such as pruning shears, sharp knives, plastic wrapping, and machetes were gathered.
The morning of, the farmers joined us at the field. We began with introductions: what is Peace Corps, who would be teaching them that day, and what they could expect to learn. We began by talking about tree care basics – techniques like adding manure to your orchard, or mulching around the base of your trees. We then got hands on as Melissa led the group in pruning, before splitting into groups to practice.We pruned a number of trees, answering questions and creating models for the other farmers to copy in their own fields.
Once all the farmers had pruned trees, we shifted gears to the more difficult grafting technique. Kelsey began by demonstrating on sticks collected from the field. Once they gained some skill, the farmers moved onto live trees, primarily mango. By the end of the morning, all the farmers felt confident doing the technique themselves.
The powerful aspect of such trainings is that in one morning 15 farmers learned a new skill which very few people in the village know, became able to improve their fruit yields, and can increase the incomes and nutrition status of their families.