News and Events

Wendy Sealey

Volunteer Expert Helps Congolese to Double Fish Farming Yield

Wendy Sealey at Pierre Kawita fish pond at the harvesting, May 2015

Profession: Physiologist, US Fish and Wildlife Service

Current Hometown: Bozeman, MT

Areas of Expertise: Fish farming

Education: PhD from Texas A&M


Name of project:  Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) in DRC, Training on Fish Feed and Nutrition

Location of the project:  Mbankana, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Duration of the assignment:  Three weeks

Organization that sent the volunteer:  ACDI/VOCA

Core Implementer of this project on behalf of USAID:  ACDI/VOCA


The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is one of the most challenging places served by the USAID-supported Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program. Millions of Congolese men, women, and children face extreme food insecurity due to years of war and corruption. Fish farming, or aquaculture, has the potential to help Congolese people add much-needed protein and nutrients to their diets.  

Fish farming was introduced to the western DRC town of Mbankana in the early 1980s. For years, farmers with minimal skill and knowledge of fish farming practiced it on a subsistence basis. Thanks to technical training in fish pond fertilization provided to the farmers by local NGO Centre d’Appui au Développement Intégral de Mbankana (CADIM) in 1996, fish production in the area increased from about 300 kg per hectare at harvest to about 700 kg per hectare. Fertilizing a fish pond nourishes the phytoplankton, zooplankton, and planktonic algae that fish eat. The pond yields of the older farmers who were trained by CADIM in fertilization exceeded those of younger farmers who didn’t receive training. These discrepancies prompted the young farmers to falsely accuse the older farmers of using witchcraft to stifle the growth of the younger farmers’ fish ponds. 

In 2015, CADIM requested Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer assistance for two Mbankana-based fish farmer associations: the Association Nzakimwena and the Association Federation des Exploitants du Système d’Interdépendance Complémentaire. In May 2015, F2F volunteer Wendy Sealey, a fish physiologist from Montana, provided training on fish feed and nutrition. During the training, Ms. Sealey explained the impact that feed and nutrition have on fish growth, disease, and production, including the negative consequences of poor feed and nutrition. 

Through the volunteer-led training, the young farmers learned that the poor performance of their ponds was not caused by witchcraft, but was due to the absence of well-balanced feed and good nutrition. Since the training, young fish farmers no longer accuse the older farmers of witchcraft, and all farmers now understand the role of feed and nutrition in fish production. The farmers are working together to conduct a trial with feed they produced from local ingredients. They will review the results in September 2016 when they harvest the pond.  

Thanks to F2F volunteer Ms. Sealey and their own efforts, Congolese farmers like Pierre Kawita and Michel Nzamba are raising bigger, healthier, more nutritious fish. Their muddy ponds are investments in DRC’s future. 

Sam Marshall

Name: Sam Marshall

Current title/profession: Extension Agent

Current hometown: North Carolina


Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer in Guinea

Location of the project: Guinea

Organization that sent the volunteer: Winrock International


My assignment was a five-day training for extension agents on the safe use of pesticides and integrated pest management strategies for mitigating pests of horticultural crops. Initially, my assignment was to take place in the Kindia region but was relocated to Conakry to accommodate beneficiaries experiencing budget changes. Because of the last-minute change, I was told to only expect 10 participants at most. Over 30 people came on the first day. The training was initially located in the Department of Agriculture but was moved to the Ministry of Agriculture on the day the training was to begin. After setting up in the conference room in our new location, we were told that the room had already been scheduled and we would have to move again; furthermore, the Minister of Agriculture wanted to meet with us before we began. So, first international volunteer experience, 3 location changes, over 30 participants instead of 10, I am now meeting with the Minister of Agriculture for the entire country, and I know zero French—welcome to Guinea, this is your itinerary for the next two weeks.

Though I felt my career as an extension agent had prepared me for a new level of flexibility, nothing could have put that to the test quite like my time in Guinea. Working with a translator for the first time was also a new experience and presented its own set of challenges, forcing me to slow down and to really think about what I was saying so that it could be translated and still have the same impact for the participants. There were a lot of times when I had absolutely no idea what was going on, though this was due in large part to the language barrier. That said, my translator, Ousmane, was amazing and extraordinarily patient with both myself and the participants and I am deeply grateful to have met and worked with him. I also have come to better appreciate the basic conditions we often take for granted in the U.S., like being able to rely on electricity, having access to affordable products that keep us safe from pesticides, or having safe, clean food and water.

Personally, I appreciated many things about Guinea, not least of which were the people. Observing day-to-day life in Guinea was at times difficult, at times frustrating, many times full of joy and hope, but it was always humbling. The thing that stands out most, the thing I cannot shake from my mind; it is the extraordinary resilience and determination of the people who live and work in Guinea, who have an enthusiastic approach to overcoming so many challenges that we cannot even begin to process here in the U.S.

My time in Guinea has given me so much more, I believe, than I was able to provide to the participants of the training. I have seen first-hand the differences between the United States and Guinea, but also the similarities of our people, including the shared desire to make each of our countries a better place for farmers and their families. Professionally, it has broadened my capacity to teach under ever-changing environments. It was challenging, but also very rewarding and I believe it has equipped me a new set of skills that I can use in my educational programs at home.

Personally, I am awestruck by the capacity of extension agents to perform their jobs with so little available resources. Communication, for example, cannot rely on internet and e-mail or cell phones. It must be more purposeful and as a result, more personal, with whomever they are speaking. This I will also take with me as I continue to build working relationships with my clientele in North Carolina.

I am deeply humbled to have been a firsthand witness to the passion that extension professionals in Guinea have for improving the lives of farmers and their families and I hope one day that I am fortunate enough to return. Maybe by then, my French will have improved.


This article was originally published by Winrock and written by Sam Marshall here. 




Wayne Burleson

VEGA's Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer of the Year

Name: Wayne Burleson

Current title/profession: Gardening for Life Instructor

Current hometown: Absarokee, Montana

Areas of expertise: Soil quality, farm management, organic farming and pest control, sustainable agriculture


Location of the project: Malawi and Mozambique

Organization that sent the volunteer: CNFA


Wayne Burleson is a passionate volunteer, having completed over fourteen assignments with the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program in the last decade, many times with his wife, Connie, who is also a valuable F2F volunteer expert. Mr. Burleson says he has seen far too much burning of African crop and grasslands. These fires are responsible for causing so-called naked lands, which in turn causes floods and droughts. This loss of organic carbon can lead to crop failures, food shortages, poverty and starvation. Mr. Burleson is on a mission to teach as many farmers as possible how to improve their soil quality and productivity, and therefore their livelihoods.

He exemplifies the VEGA and F2F approach of practical trainings to giving a hand up, instead of a hand out. Mr. Burleson’s F2F trainings have involved both theory and hands-on experience in the field. He has trained farmers on a range of soil health issues, including how to incorporate organic matter and grow nitrogen-fixing plants. He has shared his expertise on how to construct garden beds, seed sowing, various soil composting methods, organic methods of controlling pests and diseases and post-harvest handling of fruits and vegetables. Across Africa, he has helped farmers to dramatically improve their crop productivity, and in turn, help train others.

For example, in Mozambique Mr. Burleson trained a trainer who has become a true advocate for soil regeneration. Jardim para Vida, based in Beira, hosted Mr. Burleson who trained farmers on sustainable production, holistic farm management and crop budgeting. Mr. Vengai Rufu, the association president, now operates an organic farming school that further extends the benefits of Mr. Burleson’s training. Mr. Rufu is training other members of the community and farmers in other parts of the country on these new methods using regenerated or born-again soils.

Wayne said about his volunteering experience, “Farmer-to-Farmer assignments have opened our eyes to the world’s needs and motivated us to work harder to discover new and safer ways to feed the world. Our involvement with Farmer-to-Farmer programs has changed people’s views. They are now experiencing success, using their local resources —the making of compost —which has tripled food production, greatly lowered costs and increased profit while improving the land.”

This article was written by CNFA. 


Read more about Wayne:

CNFA Volunteer Wayne Burleson Named VEGA 2017 Volunteer of the Year - VEGA Member CNFA's website