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Volunteers sought to train farmers in East Africa

Published: Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

URBANA – Catholic Relief Services is partnering with the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and four other institutions on a program to conduct a USAID Farmer-to-Farmer program.

This connects farmers in the U.S. with other farmers in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda for training and technical assistance.

“Catholic Relief Services will work with grassroots organizations to identify specific farmers in their East Africa Region to assess their needs,” Rolin Oliver Ferguson, ACES international program coordinator, said.“Our role will be to help locate knowledgeable volunteers who will travel to Africa and provide training.”

Ferguson said that the volunteers may be individuals, growers, and producers with specific expertise, Master Gardeners, and U of I Extension personnel.

The program proposes to place more than 300 volunteers to conduct assignments over a 5-year period.

“We have many talented people in Illinois and affiliated with the university who might be willing to contribute and provide training in agriculture, food security, or nutrition,” Ferguson said.

The volunteers would travel to East Africa with their expenses for 2 to 3 weeks covered by the project.

“The program will use the expertise of U.S. Catholics and non-Catholics to help the impoverished communities we serve in this part of Africa,” Bruce White, director for the CRS program, said.

White said that this is the first time CRS has been involved in the 28-year-old Farmer-to-Farmer program funded by the U.S. government.

The other institutions that are involved with the partnership are the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, Foods Resource Bank, National Association of Agricultural Educators, and American Agri-Women.

For more information or to learn more about volunteering for the program, contact Ferguson at ofergus@illinois.edu or 217-300-0203.

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