Featured Item: February 2014
SRI-Rice - Peace Corps Collaboration
Partnership in West Africa
In January 2012 SRI-Rice Director of Programs Erika Styger met with representatives of the West Africa Food Security Partnership (WAFSP) in Benin, establishing the groundwork for a three-year collaboration between the two groups. The WAFSP is a first-of-its-kind partnership between USAID and Peace Corps country programs in 11 countries throughout West Africa, and as part of USAID's Feed the Future initiative it focuses on innovative knowledge and skill exchanges across regional borders.
Rice is a strategic crop for Feed the Future, and with West Africa being the most important rice producing, consuming and importing region in Africa, the collaboration between the WAFSP and SRI-Rice will help both organizations capitalize on each other's strengths to boost rice production across the region. SRI spreads best through direct trainings of farmers, and in West Africa the predominance of non-irrigated rice systems will necessitate plenty of local adaptation to SRI methods. Peace Corps volunteers are uniquely situated in thousands of rural communities, and with their close personal relationships they can be instrumental in not only training farmers but also helping them adapt SRI to their local circumstances.
The collaboration between Peace Corps and SRI-Rice was furthered with the involvement of Devon Jenkins and Lorraine Perricone-Dazzo, two former Cornell graduate students who had been part-time student employees at SRI-Rice during their studies, and then went on to join Peace Corps. Lorraine served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal from August 2011 until November 2013, working with rice growing farmers in the Kaffrine region. During her service she conducted trials with farmers, attended a regional SRI training in Benin, and conducted SRI trainings for other Peace Corps volunteers and counterparts in Senegal. Lorraine is currently finishing up her Master's thesis, titled 'Rice cropping systems and SRI in Kaffrine, Senegal. Devon, who is currently a technical specialist with SRI-Rice with the SRI West Africa Initiative, served as a Peace Corps Response volunteer in Porto Novo, Benin, from June 2012 to August 2013, and while there helped organize and lead two regional SRI trainings for the WAFSP/SRI-Rice collaboration. These trainings, held in September 2012 and April/May 2013, brought Peace Corps volunteers, counterparts, and Peace Corps staff together from Benin, The Gambia, Guinea, Senegal and Togo, effectively launching the collaboration. Since these training, SRI-Rice has been providing technical and training support for Peace Corps, and will continue to do so, helping plan, develop, test and adapt technical packages for Peace Corps as needed. SRI-Rice and Peace Corps are also eager to explore potential synergies with the recently launched WAAPP project, Improving and Scaling up of the System of Rice Intensification in West Africa (see below), with potential for both projects to enhance each others' work.