First of all I would like to send a very big thank you to everyone who wrote me letters to open throughout the summer. I have already gotten to open a couple, and am really looking forward to reading them!
Well, It has been a long time coming - but I finally made it to Toronto for predeparture training (predep). Predep is the time where the JFs who are going to the same country get together for some group based learning and team building covering everything from in country safety to communication styles. These sessions are going to be giving me very valuable information that will help ensure that my placement is successful.
Speaking of placements.... My placement is with the AgEx team (as previously mentioned) working with a company called Kuapa Kokoo through CNFA. CNFA is an American organization which is 'dedicated to stimulating economic growth around the world by nurturing entrepreneurship, private enterprise and market linkages.' CNFA has a project in Ghana where they are trying to increase the income of cocoa farmers by increasing the quality of the product as well as expanding production. This is where the placement ties into Kuapa Kooko. Kuapa Kooko is a farming cooperative formed in 1993 by a group of farmers in Ghana and through the years has gained Fairtrade Certification and has grown to a membership of over 45,000 producers. Kuapa Kooko improves the livelihoods of the farmers through projects such as building several schools, organizing mobile clinic visits to communities, as well as investing in equipment and training farmers can use to break into other channels of income.
Now, what am I going to be doing, you ask?
Well, it is sort of split into two different main task groups:
1) For Kuapa Kokoo
-One of the main issues with extension services is that you cannot force a person to accept the technology or education that you are distributing. One of my tasks is to identify and prototype a solution to some of these barriers blocking the acceptance and use of technology and changing farmer behavior towards extension attempts.
-The farming population as well as the cocoa trees themselves in Ghana are aging. This has been identified as a potential cause for a loss in the quality of the cocoa being produced, and less income for the farmers. Crop diversification would help to offset this loss, as well as reduce the economic hit from potential environmental factors that could reduce the price of a cocoa crop.
2) For EWB
-The AgEx team is interested in looking at how Kuapa Kokoo and CNFA go about agricultural extension and want a breakdown of their model. What services does Kuapa Kokoo offer to farmers? How is this presented to farmers? How do farmers and extension agents communicate? and many other questions need answering in order to fully understand the process. The long term goal of this is to gather the best extension techniques for varying situations and find out how viable private sector extension agencies can be.
Now, I think that is enough from me for a little bit - Now I want something from YOU!
In the comments bellow I would like people to think of different questions for me to answer about Kuapa Kokoo's extension practices.
Links for further reading:
CNFA - http://www.cnfa.org/
Kuapa Kokoo - http://www.kuapakokoo.com/index.php
Fairtrade - http://www.fairtrade.net/