Tony is a Peace Corps extension agent entering a village that has never had a Peace Corps Volunteer before. The Peace Corps program he is assigned to is considered a rural development program. It is relatively new - three years old and is just beginning to isolate the most pressing needs of the host country's rural people.
Tony's training is primarily in a package of new innovations designated by government research stations as the central component in a "crash" Ministry of Agriculture program to dramatically improve maize production. The package includes: land preparation techniques, introduction of hybrid seed varieties, several different improved planting methods, recommendations for spacing and timely weeding of crops, use of chemical fertilizers and the controlled use of pesticides. Construction of water wells and latrines and cooperative marketing were secondary emphases in the training course.
Tony arrives in his site accompanied by his supervisor in a Ministry of Agriculture Land Rover. After meeting the town mayor and several of his counselors, Tony discovers that, as yet, there is no place for him to stay in the village. There is some commotion and quite a bit of discussion that Tony does not understand as different landowners in town are sent for and the Ministry supervisor tries to negotiate some arrangement.
Finally, everyone marches to one end of town to look at a house that has been selected for Tony's use. The house has not been completed yet, it lacks doors and windows, a cement floor and a latrine. Still, it seems large and comfortable enough to suit Tony's needs. A rental agreement is made and it is decided that Tony will be the guest of the mayor until the house is finished.
As it turns out, Tony spends the first month and a half living in two adjacent rooms in one of the mayor's houses waiting for work on his own house to be completed. At one point he decides to contribute some of his own money to buy the materials the landowner needs to proceed with construction. At another, work is delayed because the man digging his latrine becomes ill for several days. Finally, everything but some of the latches on the windows has been completed and Tony moves in.
These first six weeks are from Tony's perspective, full of frustration. He finds that he has to put a lot of time and energy into motivating people to keep working on his house. Consequently, he does not have a chance to get around the village and meet as many farmers as he wants to. It is nearing the planting season for maize and Tony has made only a few contacts with people who might be interested in trying some of the new practices he was taught in training.
To make up for lost time Tony discusses with the mayor the possibility of calling a farmers' meeting. Its purpose would be for Tony to formally introduce himself and describe to farmers some of the new agricultural techniques he has come to promote in the area. The mayor agrees to call farmers together three nights hence.
At the meeting, Tony gives a short speech explaining where he has come from and chat he has been sent to the village to work with farmers in agriculture. He tells the farmers present that he has special training in maize production and that if any of them are interested he can show them maize growing methods that ill more than double their current yields. The mayor follows Tony's speech with a call to farmers to be cooperative with Tony. He says that it is a rare opportunity to have someone come in from the outside to help develop the town and villagers should take advantage of such assistance while it is available. Before the meeting breaks up, Tony makes a list of more than a dozen names of men who say they are interested in the new maize cultivation techniques.
Over the next few weeks, Tony discovers that the meeting has served very little purpose. Within the ethnic group that is predominant in the village, maize growing is done almost exclusively by women farmers, not by men. The response at the meeting was apparently prompted by the mayor's remarks. This becomes apparent only after Tony has made several fruitless attempts to meet with some of the men who were present at the meeting to discuss plans for the upcoming cropping season.
Tony forges ahead over the next three or four months with his attempts to promote improved maize production methods to women farmers, despite several difficulties he encounters along the way. The first is a language barrier. Most of the men in the village speak a dialect that is used all over the country for communication between ethnic groups. This is the dialect Tony learned in training. Most of the women, on the other hand, are less well-travelled than the men and can consequently speak only the very localized village dialect. Tony is forced to communicate with them through two women who can speak some of the outside dialect until he can learn to speak the local language himself. This is a cumbersome process and work moves slowly.
A second problem relating to sex roles in the village is that most of the cash-generating enterprises - cash crops government service jobs, and the like are controlled by men. Women farmers, by and large, do not have the capital to invest in the seed, ag chemicals and labor requirements called for in the package of innovations Tony has been trained to promote. This places even greater restictions on the work.
The final difficulty is a very basic lack of trust. Farmers simply do not believe what Tony says about the potential yields to be had in adopting the package of innovations he is recommending. A research station less than 40 km away has achieved very favorable results in on-farm trials in villages only a few kilometers down the road, but it seems that Tony's neighbors are not to be convinced until they actually see results for themselves.
The immediate consequence of these difficulties is that Tony has to drastically redirect his promotional efforts from the plans he had originally developed for his work. His first step on the new course is to take soil samples from several of the farms in the area to the research station for testing. This gives him Information he needs to know in order to recommend the variety of seed best suited to local farm management practices (e.g. the absence of chemical fertilizers).
Next, Tony procures quantities of seed to loan to farmers for use in small on-farm result trials. Many people have planted already by the time he brings the seed to the village, but a handful of farmers still take the chance to try a new variety. Of these, only three or four adhere strictly to the planting instructions Tony suggests to them, the others preferring the more traditional and time-saving practices of wider spacing and more seeds per hole.
A month or two later, Tony's focus has shifted to the need for timely weeding in the maize fields. This advice is either wholly ignored or only partially accepted. There are just too many other competing demands on women's time to allow for a thorough weeding of crops at precisely the correct stage of plant growth.
Only two women have enough money to purchase fertilizer, even though many or the women have heard of it and would like to try it sometime in the future when they can better afford it. Tony works with the two women to show them how to make the most efficient use of the limited amounts of fertilizer they have purchased. Like some of the other efforts, however, the effects of fertilizer use are muted by improper application of other aspects of the extension package.
Harvest time rolls around and as expected, the results show only a slight improvement over past years. No one is greatly disappointed and in one or two cases gains from the new practices are quite apparent. Still, Tony is frustrated. After a whole season's work, there does not seem to be much to show for everyone's efforts.
One curious fact about the harvest catches Tony's attention. Many of the women in the area live at the subsistence level, supplying most of their own food needs from what they grow themselves. This fact notwithstanding, Tony notices that no sooner have women finished harvesting than they carry most of their grain to the market for immediate sale.
Tony asks several of the women he works with why they are not keeping more of their harvest for personal consumption in the months ahead. They respond almost to a person that they cannot keep any more corn than the one or two bags they have already set aside because they will lose too much of it to rats and mildrew in storage.
This is new information to Tony, and he devotes quite a bit of time to thinking about it. He has not been trained in effective grain storage techniques, so he is unsure how to go about helping villagers put a stop to their problems. In order to better educate himself as to what practices are currently being employed, he conducts a farm survey.
What he finds is a wide variety of storage methods. Most farmers leave the grain on the ear during storage. The ears are stored in either large strongbox-type storage bins, or they are piled on mats in rooms set aside for grain storage purpose. Some farmers shuck the grain from the ear before storing the shell corn in burlap bags in lofts in their houses. In most cases, the condition of the stored grain is not good. The maize is generally not adequately dried, some is infested with insects, and rats are running rampant.
To get a better handle on the storage problem, Tony does some additional investigating. He talks to officials at the research station and tours their storage facilities. The latter are quite impressive, but do not appear to be very appropriate to the situation faced by most of the farmers with whom Tony works.
Tony also travels to the capital city to do some checking at the Peace Corps' resource center. Here, he finds two or three reference works on intermediate storage technologies. He copies several of the grain silo and storage crib designs and returns to the village.
There he continues monitoring storage conditions in bins around town. He convinces two farmers that their maize needs additional drying in the sun before it can be left in storage. And he talks to several others who are having terrible problems with rats. Most just shrug off the situation and say there is nothing they can do.
Even while making those rounds, Tony begins experimenting with some of the new storage designs to see if they are feasible when made with local materials. A neighbor helps him find vines and certain types of tree bark that can be used to lash sections of bamboo together. The two find, however, that the bindings suggested in the plans Tony has do not work effectively with some of the taller structures. By trial and error, they come up with a strong knot to use.
Together they make a set of scale models that Tony uses to talk with farmers about storage problems. Those who experience the greatest difficulties with storage offer suggestions on how to meet their particular needs. Those who have the greatest success in storing their harvest offer tips on how to improve the designs. Most of the attention in the discussions Tony has with farmers focuses on rat control devices - stilts and metal shields to prevent rats from grawing their way into maize cribs and bins. Two or three of the designs seem to meet with far greater approval from farmers who look at the scale models than the others. Tony builds full-scale models of these, with his neighbor's help, and fills them with grain to see how well they work at keeping the corn dry and free from rat damage.
By the time these are completely constructed, the "hungry season" is growing near and people are becoming concerned about whether or not the previous year's grain will last until the next harvest. Tony judges that the time is ripe for a demonstration of the improved storage techniques he has been testing.
To set up the demonstration, Tony visits each of the farmers he has maintained contacts with over the past several months' time and checks with them on the current status of the maize in their storerooms. Many have very few stores remaining, most have problems with rats; several have suffered losses to mildrew and insects. Tony talks with them about the new bins he has constructed and says that he is planning to make a demonstration of their effectiveness to farmers who might be interested in building one for themselves.
This first round of contacts gives Tony an idea of how many people are seriously interested in the new storage techniques. He contacts each of the farmers who seems most interested a second time to suggest two or three alternative dates for making the presentation. The general consensus is to wait eight days until a special religious observance is past, and then give the demonstration in the early evening after the women have cleaned up from their cooking chores.
In preparing for the demonstration, Tony strives to keep several things in mind. He knows that farmers are acutely aware of storage problems because of their anxiety over the upcoming hungry season, and he wants to capitalize on their clear self-interest in improving the way they store their crops. He also knows that farmers are more likely to fully understand and accept advice from one of their peers than they would from him, so he wants to have his neighbor help him give the presentation. Finally, he tries to think of ways to get farmers actively involved in what he says and does during the demo. He believes that once farmers see and experience how easy it is to construct a welldesigned bin and understand how well it works (Tony's bins are virtually rat-free), they will freely opt to build one for themselves. Tony's neighbor is willing to help with the demonstration, so the two men sit down together and come up with a plan for the presentation that includes the following steps:
1. Invoking audience interest by passing around rat-damaged maize;
2. Pointing out the essential requirements of an effective storage bin;
3. Evaluating storage methods commonly practiced in the village;
4. Explaining and comparing the new maize crib designs;
5. Answering questions;
6. Asking for volunteers from the audience to help demonstrate construction methods;
7. Repeating steps, if necessary;
8. Answering questions;
9. Summarizing and offering followup.
They decide who will take what role during the different parts of the demonstration, they assemble materials - additional bush rope and bamboo - they will need, and they actually rehearse several times together the sequence of activities to make sure that things will run smoothly.
Two days before the appointed date, Tony makes rounds to all the farmers who expressed interest in coming to the meeting to remind them of the time and place where it will be held. The day of the meeting itself, Tony lays out materials where they will be handy during the demonstration. He considers where the expected audience of fifteen or twenty people will stand so they can both see and hear the presentation. And he checks with his co-demonstrator on some last minute ideas he has for avoiding snags.
Most of the women Tony expects do actually come to the demonstration. A half a dozen men even show up. The demo is carried out and Tony and his neighbor spend nearly half an hour answering very particular questions about the time needed to build the bin, construction techniques and results in terms of rat protection. One or two farmers remain skeptical of the amount of labor involved, and a third doubts that the new crib designs will be secure enough to keep theives from breaking in and stealing grain. The rest of the farmers express strong interests in having Tony help them build one or another of the designs for their own use. Discussion at the end of the evening focuses on the best time to actually begin building the new cribs. Most feel that it will be best to wait until all the crops have been planted and more time is available to devote to the construction task.
The rains begin and Tony once again works with farmers on their planting methods, stressing that fewer seeds per hill will reduce a lot of the negative effects of crowding farmers experienced the previous year.
When the planting is finished, Tony sets out to follow up on his earlier efforts to promote the new storage bin designs. At the demonstration, more than ten farmers indicated that they would like to try building rat-proof maize cribs. By the time all the crops are in the ground, only six farmers remain interested. Tony helps each of them over the course of the next two or three months to construct her own facility.
The next harvest comes in and the new-bins are pressed into service. Farmers are very pleased with the way they work. There is still a small amount of rat damage, but compared to previous years there is a vast improvement. Maize in the bins also dries thoroughly. In fact, the only real problem remaining is that a percentage of the harvest is still lost to weevils.
In his end of service report, Tony details the steps he followed and the progress made in his site in introducing the new storage technology. He also lists the problems he faced and the measures he took to try and meet the special needs of the ethnic group he worked with in promoting maize production. He recommends that his successor be interested in storage problems, and that she be well versed in use of pest control measures appropriate to the insect problems farmers continue to face with their new storage facilities.