Thoughts from an agricultural development gal in Ghana

What am I doing here? – Part 1

Alright, enough of this fluffy stuff. It’s time to get down to business. I want to finally answer the question you’ve all been asking: What are you actually DOING over there??

I’m going to answer this question in a series of posts over the next few weeks. I’ll start out with the basics, then dive deeper into the “what”s and “why”s behind what I’m doing here. After all, that is the name of the blog!

So let’s start at the beginning. What does it mean to work for EWB in Africa?

My work is divided into 4 main areas: Partner, EWB team, Canada connections and Personal (in no particular order – no, health does not come last in the priority list!). Let me tell you a bit more about what I’m trying to achieve in each of these areas.

Work with my Partner

Our team is partnered with MoFA, the Ghanaian Ministry of Food and Agriculture. The purpose of this ministry is to increase food security by providing extension services to farmers, including technical knowledge, business advice and skills training. Ghana is divided into 10 regions, each with a regional-level MoFA office, then each region is divided into several districts (the number depends on the size and population of the region), each of which has a district-level MoFA office. EWB is working with MoFA at all of these levels – National, Regional and District. I am working at the Tamale District office and also occasionally at the Northern Regional office (which is also in Tamale).

We work with MoFA because MoFA works with farmers, which is the majority of the poor rural population in Ghana. These are our “target beneficiaries”, if you want to use the development lingo. Working with MoFA allows EWB to reach a wide number of farmers thanks to MoFA’s well-established extension network. However, MoFA is also constrained by a lot of issues common in developing countries. Some of these issues are beyond their control, such as donor constraints and lack of funding. But there are other issues that can be addressed, like motivation, management skills and staff capacity to do the work.

Our goal is not to add additional programs to MoFA’s plate (which is what most NGOs/donors do – design their own programs and use MoFA as an “implementing agency”, taking them away from the work they’re supposed to be doing). Instead, we are working to strengthen the core MoFA extension work – helping farmers to improve their farms and put more money in their pockets. This means embedding ourselves in MoFA’s offices and working alongside the staff to address everyday issues, as well as encouraging them to have a long-term vision for the work they’re doing.

Work with the Agric Ghana EWB team

The Agric Ghana team is currently made up of 6 African Programs Staff (APS) and 3 Professional Fellows (ProFs) from EWB’s Professional Chapters in Canada. We work closely together, communicating often even though we are spread out across 2 regions in northern Ghana. Once a month we come together to work as a team for a weekend. During these meetings we work on team strategy including planning, evaluating and changing our programs, work to share what we know with others, do some professional development and have a whole lotta fun! These meetings are great for keeping us on the same page as a team and enhancing the work each of us is doing. We also give and receive coaching with other members of the team to help each other set goals and grow. It’s a great environment to work in – I love this team!

Canada Connections

Believe it or not, I actually consider it work to keep in touch with Canada! I do this because otherwise I would never prioritize time to write in my blog, or take photos to send to the National Office in Toronto. But I think one of the most important things we can do as APS is to let other people know what we’re doing. All of you reading this in Canada have an enormous amount of information at your fingertips, and a huge potential to use this information for outreach to the Canadian public and advocacy to the Canadian government. So let me help you by telling you what I know!

I am also partnered with two of EWB’s student chapters in Canada, the University of Western Ontario and the University of Waterloo (go W’s!). My job is to keep them informed about what’s going on with the Agric Ghana team and give them resources to help with their programs, from fundraising to member learning to outreach. And of course, we want to develop some awesome personal connections between EWB’s African programs and Chapters. Can’t wait to work more with these amazing guys and gals!

Personal

Finally, I have some personal goals for my time in Ghana. These include things like health and fitness, happiness and motivation, keeping in touch with my friends and family at home and making time for personal and professional development. For example, I’m really good at building trust with people, but I need to work on how I use that trust in group situations. I’m also working to become a better manager. And of course, I’m trying to eat my 5-10 servings of veggies every day! (Though it’s virtually impossible here… man, I never thought I would miss salad!)

I hope that gives you a good overview of what it’s like to work for the Agric Ghana team. In the next post, I’ll tell you more about what I’m actually doing with MoFA. Until then, please send your comments and questions my way and I’ll do my best to address them in the coming posts. Thanks for reading!

WATERLOO GANGSTAS UNITE
We take our jobs very seriously.
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6 responses

  1. CV

    Hi Erin ~
    It’s nearly time to feature you on our Grand River chapter website again,
    and this new blog post will be perfect.
    P.S. glad to hear that you and Ben had a great visit with your family!

    September 17, 2010 at 3:41 pm

  2. Love the post! I’ve definitely found it challenging to explain the “whats” and “whys” at times.

    However, I DISLIKE the lack of mention of the awesome JFs who just left the team. 😛

    September 17, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    • Haha thanks Lauren. And you’re right, I totally neglected JFs! I’ll be sure to include you in a near-future post 😛
      Miss ya!

      September 20, 2010 at 10:42 am

  3. Erin,
    As a new school year starts, I am directing more and more students to your blog, especially those who are interested in global development. This is a great post to start them off. How much of what you do is truly sustainable? Are locals being trained/taught the skills that you and EWB are bring to MoFA? I’d love to hear about the long-term goals of your work and that of the EWB. Keep up the writing. Walk proud as you are doing great work.
    Cheers,
    Scott

    September 20, 2010 at 1:14 am

    • Hilarious picture by the way. Gangsta thu and thru.

      September 20, 2010 at 1:14 am

    • Hey Scott,
      Always great to hear from you and to know that you’re reading! I’m really excited about the idea of a bunch of your high school students reading my blog. I was thinking, is there any way we could take that up a notch? I’d be happy to prepare some material specific to your class, whatever that may be. A few ideas: answering their questions (either of me or something like “Ask a Ghanaian” and I’ll find the answers), providing some case studies or backgrounders on my work or development in general, maybe something to support learning about CIDA and Canadian politics and foreign aid, fun videos, anything! I think it could be a cool project/partnership, if you’re interested. I’m not sure how it fits into the curriculum/your goals for your class, but if there’s a way, let me know!
      Also I just visited your blog for the first time and I think it’s great! I’m really interested in your teaching goals for this year. It sounds amazing! I’d like to hear more about how you can accomplish those goals while still working “inside” the traditional school system (ie. without getting reprimanded) – there are quite a few directors here in Ghana who try to go against the grain and do things in a better way for their district, but they are often punished for straying. How difficult is it in a school in Canada? Interesting. Anyway, love the blog, keep it up 🙂
      Erin

      September 20, 2010 at 10:50 am

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