This article was originally written by Ryan Ringuette and published by CRS.
Name: Ryan Ringuette
Current title/profession: Peace Corps Volunteer
Current hometown: Kampala, Uganda
Areas of expertise: Biosystems engineering, food engineering
Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer in East Africa
Location of the project: Uganda
Organization that sent the volunteer: Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
Volunteering has (accidentally) become my family’s tradition. Both my father and mother are Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (Morocco and Nepal), and both my sister and I are current Peace Corps Volunteers (Paraguay and Uganda). Additionally, my recently retired father volunteers with the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer program (F2F). F2F leverages the expertise of US volunteers to respond to the needs of farmers and farmer organizations around the world. And as a third year Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) with Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) F2F Uganda program, I ensure he and others like him can do just that.
I say ‘accidentally’ because I never dreamed about becoming a PCV. When I was growing up, academics were the driving force, farming the family tradition, and volunteering an occasional undertaking. I wanted to help people, be helpful to them, and thought academics were the best way to learn how to do this. However, being the son of RPCV and teacher parents, every summer we would travel. Sometimes domestically, usually internationally, but always as budget traveler’s places with different geographies, cultures, and histories than Hawai’i. At some point I realized I was learning more from these experiences than I was at school, which led me to apply for Peace Corps in my Senior year of college.
I arrived in Uganda as an Agribusiness Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) in June 2015. After training with 46 other PCV’s-to-be, I paired with NilePro Trust, a local NGO and F2F host organization in Arua, Uganda. With NilePro, I was a field supervisor for their Vegetable Oil Development Project, promoting oilseed crops (sunflower, soybean, sesame) to farmers and developing farmer groups capacity to link to markets. During my time with them, NilePro received three volunteers; two helping to develop farmer groups into cooperatives and one assessing the feasibility of a sesame processing plant with NilePro. The volunteer’s different practices, perspectives, and experiences with their assignment and in development work enhanced my own understanding of how people try to help other people.
During my first two years, my Dad and I met twice on or after a F2F assignment. The first was after his assignment in Tanzania; we trekked to the gorillas in Bwindi forest and watched lions laze in the trees of Queen Elizabeth National Park. The second was during the last week of his soil conservation assignment in Mbale, Uganda. This is the only time I have seen him in action and how much he enjoys working with farmers from a different part of the world. Making compost piles was something we were taught in Peace Corps, but conveying that message to a farmer so they understand and potentially use it is something I learned from watching him.
Near the end of my first two years, third year positions were developed by the Peace Corps country program with the goal of providing interested PCV’s the opportunity to work in international development. One of those positions was as a program officer with CRS’s F2F Uganda program. My previous, positive experiences with the program and the opportunity for professional, international development made my decision very easy. And allows me to continue the new family tradition.
Read David Ringuette's article here.