This article was originally written and published by the Farm Forum here.
Name: Hans Kandel
Current title/profession: Extension Agronomist at North Dakota State University
Current hometown: Fargo, North Dakota
Areas of expertise: Agronomy, crops, higher education
Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer in East Africa
Location of the project: Sierra Leone
Organization that sent the volunteer: Partners of the Americas
North Dakota State University professor and Extension agronomist Hans Kandel traveled to Sierra Leone for two weeks in September to share his technical skills and expertise with local farmers.
Kandel’s assignment is part of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program that promotes economic growth, enhanced nutrition through access to healthy food and agricultural development in West and East Africa. Farmer-to-Farmer is funded by the U.S Agency for International Development.
The F2F program matches the technical expertise of U.S. famers and professionals in agri-businesses, farming cooperatives and universities with farmers in developing countries to assist them in improving agricultural productivity, accessing new markets and increasing their incomes.
Sierra Leone is on the coast of West Africa. About three-fourths of the 7.5 million citizens depend on agriculture for their income and 60 percent live in rural areas. An estimated 25 percent of the population cannot afford minimum daily caloric requirements and face regular difficulties meeting food, shelter and clothing needs.
“There are many natural resources available in Sierra Leone, but farmers lack the knowledge to utilize these resources,” Kandel said. “I provided training on rice production. Farmers did not know about the importance of adding compost, manure and other nutrients to their fields.”
Kandel added, “Rice is the main food staple. Presently, the country imports rice to meet the local demand. However, the country could produce enough rice for its own consumption if subsistence farmers utilized improved crop management practices.”
Sierra Leone faces many challenges in reaching its agricultural potential. They include a lack of expertise, weak producer organizations, low access to technology, limited infrastructure, institutional and financial obstacles to private sector development, and limited government funding.
During his time abroad, Kandel worked with 21 leader farmers who were trained for eight days in basic rice production issues, as well as practical application of the principles learned.
Most of Kandel’s time was spent in Magburaka in the northern province of Sierra Leone, working with Agenda for Community Transformation-Sierra Leone (ACT-SL), a farmer-driven organization.
“Farmers were very receptive to the concepts presented and indicated an enthusiasm to adopt proper seedbed preparation, transplanting, fertilizing and weeding of rice,” Kandel stated.
“We are certain that this program will be beneficial not just to the farmers in West and East Africa but also to the experts from America,” said Bruce White, director of the CRS program. “It’s going to make the world a little bit smaller and a whole lot better for everyone involved.”