Ann is a Peace Corps Volunteer who has been trained in intensive vegetable gardening techniques. She arrives to replace another volunteer in the village where she has been posted and within the first two or three days local authorities, ag workers, and townspeople hold a meeting to welcome her. She introduces herself by talking about where she has come from, her interest in helping with agriculture and her appreciation for everyone's friendliness and assistance in getting her settled into her house. She asks the names of the local leaders and listens to each make a small speech.
During the next few weeks, Ann spends most of her time orienting herself to her surroundings. She tours the town with her offical counterpart, Abdul, who introduces her to shopkeepers and religious leaders, shows her where local artisans perform their various crafts and helps her arrange for language instruction. In the evenings, she spends time filling in a map with the day's information and paying visits to her neighbors.
Ann follows up her initial contact with village leaders by asking them to commit a small amount of time to her on some agriculturally-oriented task. She asks one leader to show her his farm. She asks another to show her where she stores her crops and seed. She asks a third to introduce her to the 'best' farmer he knows. In this way she begins to piece together impressions of which leaders are actively interested or involved in agriculture and of the agricultural practices people employ in the area.
She also takes two days to travel to the district capital with Abdul to visit the Ministry of Agriculture's office there. During her stay she makes a special effort to get to know the Ministry's office secretaries, the storekeeper, motor pool drivers and mechanics, and the paymaster, because she realizes that these people hold important positions and provide her with key support services in the field. She meets for an hour or two each day with her supervisor, discussing this perception of previous development efforts in her site. He reviews the work of her predecessor who worked with vegetable gardens in three neighboring villages, and briefly describes some of the Ministry's ongoing projects in the area. She is especially interested in learning about on-farm trials conducted recently of improved eggplant, pepper and onion varieties. She is told about office procedures, is given a tour of facilities, and receives forms for her monthly reports.
When Ann returns to her site, farmers are harvesting their field crops and clearing ground for dry season vegetable gardens. She and Abdul decide to grow a small garden of their own on a plot of land in back of her house. They clear the ground together, and as they work they talk at length about gardening practices. He describes to her local methods of cultivation and she presses him for more information on the variety trials he helped conduct the previous year.
One or two times a week, Ann offers to help farmers with their harvesting chores. Though she finds it awkward at first, she gradually improves in handling the scythe made by local blacksmiths and has an enjoyable time learning to tote loads on her head and being taught the local names of various plants and tools.
As the harvest draws to a close, more attention is focused in the community on planting the vegetable crop. Farmers had good success last year, especially with their onions. This is largely due to the relatively cooler temperature in Ann's site which is at a higher elevation than much of the rest of the country. Some farmers were able to market some of last year's surplus and most are interested in expanding their efforts this season.
The main limiting factor to expanding production is the availability of onion seed, which can only be multiplied in a much cooler, temperature climate. Traders bring the seed into town from the capital city, but they charge a high price for it, demanding even higher prices than before. Ann hears much grumbling from her neighbors. She asks them what alternative seed outlets are available; no one seems to be aware of any outside the capital city. She discusses the situation with Abdul and he tells her that seed can be bought through the ministry, but that it takes a special request of Ann's supervisor as well as several months advance notice so the seed can be brought in from outside the country.
The village vegetable crop emerges and Ann and Abdul work out a somewhat regular pattern of visits to farmers. On Abdul's recommendation, they focus attention on spacing of seedlings during transplanting and on weeding practices, the two areas where farmers have had the most difficulty in the past.
The onion crop matures, and, though there are some losses due to insect infestations the crop looks good. The regular field visits and the harvest prospects have been duly noted in Ann's reports to the Ministry, and on a visit to the district capital near the end of the growing season Ann's supervisor refers to the onion crop and asks if the reports are indeed accurate, that the onion crop is going so well. His interest sparks an idea in Ann's head which she discusses with Abdul that evening.
Ann's idea is to invite her supervisor and some of the other ag workers in the district to visit her site to observe the onion crop during the first week of harvest. This would give the farmers in her area a chance to request of the Ministry a special seed purchase for the following year. It would also be an opportunity for Abdul to gain some recognition for the good work he has been doing if he were to take a very visible role in organizing a reception for the special quests.
Abdul becomes excited at Ann's suggestion and the two visit their supervisor the next day to invite him to a field day. He accepts and a tentative date is set three weeks hence.
When Ann and Abdul return to their site they visit one of the village leaders who is also an onion farmer, and tell him about the arrangements they have made with their supervisor. The leader is pleased that contact has been made with the Ministry of Agriculture about the seed problem in town, but he tells Ann and Abudl, much to their disappointment, that the field day cannot take place as planned. A special commemorative burial service will be held that day. The three talk further, some of the other leaders are called to join the deliberations, and it is decided to send a messenger to the district capital to invite the Ministry supervisor to come a week later than had been arranged. The messenger returns after a day or two with the good news that Ann's supervisor will be able to visit on the alternative date.
Planning at this point is carried out at three different levels. Ann and Abdul sit down and discuss what their goals are for the field day. They choose two: to impress Ministry officials with the needs of farmers in Ann's site for better access to onion seed; and to demonstrate Abdul's accomplishments as a field extension agent so as to enhance his prospects for future promotion within the Ministry. In order to meet these goals, the two extension workers discuss the role they will each play during the field day, and they list several questions to be posed to village leaders to help ensure that the day will come off without a hitch.
A meeting is held between Ann and Abdul and the village leaders. Abdul points out to everyone assembled that the Ministry official will arrive in the late morning and will probably be accompanied by several other Ministry workers. Discussion focuses on who will greet the official on behalf of the town, what the official will be shown on his tour of the vegetable gardens, what special provisions will be made for food and entertainment, and who will represent the onion farmers in presenting their seed request to the official prior to his departure. A list of tasks is drawn up and the town leaders decide to call a town meeting.
This meeting takes place the next evening after everyone has finished their day's work in the field. The leaders announce to the townspeople the impending visit and state that people will be needed to clear brush away from the paths to the fields, cook a special meal, provide entertainment and attend a meeting with the official to talk about onion seed purchases for the upcoming year.
On the appointed day, Abdul and Ann make a last minute check to make sure that all the preparations have taken place. Their supervisor arrives somewhat later than either of them expect, and some of the farmers grow anxious in the meantime. Nonetheless, the day is carried out according to plan. Abdul, Ann, and the village leaders greet the official when he arrives. Abdul and a couple of the best onion farmers show the official several of the onion patches. A large meal is served while local musicians perform. And at the close of the day, the town leaders makes a small speech praising Abdul and Ann for their extension efforts and asking the Ministry supervisor about procuring onion seeds for the following year.
The official responds by saying that he has been impressed by what he has seen. He asks how many farmers are interested in buying seed from the Ministry, and after a rough head count is taken, he says that he feels confident that he will be able to get seeds for them for the next growing season.
The next few months pass slowly for Ann. The rains begin and travel becomes more difficult. Farmers devote most of their energy to traditional field crops. Ann continues to gather information about agriculture by making regular visits to farms in the area. She spends time with the women in the village who dye cloth, learning from them about their craft. And she takes a short vacation to visit friends in another part of the country.
Two or three months before the end of the rains, Ann checks back with her supervisor about the onion seed purchase. He tells her that the Ministry has no funds to place a deposit with the seed company, but that he can go ahead and place the order if he gets half the money from farmers who intend to buy seed in advance. Ann had not anticipated this difficulty and returns to her site to confer with Abdul and village leaders. A meeting is called and the information is relayed to the rest of the onion farmers. Someone claims that the Ministry official is trying to take advantage of them by stealing their money. Other farmers state that they simply will not have the cash until the field crop harvest is in to buy the seed. In the end, several farmers have to borrow money from relatives and five or six farmers drop out of the cooperative buying effort because of distrust.
The next few weeks are unpleasant for Ann. She and Abdul come under increasing pressure from villagers as the dry season approaches and the seed fails to arrive. With less than a month to spare, a message arrives from the district capital that the seed has come. A meeting is held to collect the remaining money required for the purchase. Again, two or three farmers are short of cash. They ask Ann to extend a short loan, but she chooses to remain firm and they are forced to come up with the cash elsewhere.
The seeds are bought at a price nearly twenty per cent lower than that charged by traders and many farmers are able to acquire larger amounts than they have had access to in the past. Ann and Abdul continue to work with farmers on their cultivation practices and the harvest is bountiful. Several farmers rent a truck for a day to carry their bags of onions to the capital city to sell. Others store their produce for sale in nearby villages. Ann, meanwhile, keeps careful records of yields, drying and storage techniques, and the names of people involved in cooperative marketing efforts for future reference.
The rains return and shortly thereafter Ann finishes her Peace Corps service. She is followed in her site by a volunteer who is particularly interested in cooperative development. This volunteer never seems to develop the same rapport with his Ministry supervisor that Ann had, and the official is not willing to go out of his way to make the special effort to order seed early for the farmers the next year. Thus, though they continue to cooperatively market their onions and other vegetables, farmers in the village where Ann lived are forced to buy their seed once again from travelling peddlers.