United States Peace Corps Ghana
Peace Corps Volunteer Michael Kern Description of Service Ghana 2009 -2011
" ature gave us two cheeks instead of one to make it easier to eat hot food"
- Ghanaian Pro erb
The Peace Corps experience is often defIned as a unique, extraordinary, and distinct Journey by those who have endured the process. While volunteers across the world share certain aspects of joining the Peace Corps - most notably a competitive year-long application process prior to service, a rigorous three-month incountry language and cultural training, and ultimatel t\.vo fUll years living, learning, and teaching in a forei 11 environment - the situational challenges that arise th oughout these phases affect individual volw1teers in diverse ways.
Michael Andrew Kehr arrived in Ghana on June 4, 2009 at the age of 22. He was the first Peace Corps Volunteer assigned to Bodaa, a rural village of the Brong Ahafo Region. In fact, he was the fIrst foreigner to ever live and work with the community. When Mr.Kehr arrived to the village in August of 2009, he discoyered that not only would his age and background be a huge cultural challenge to overcome, but also that the community had little understanding of the United States Peace Corps and his role as a volunteer. F r two years, Iv!r. Yehr struggled to break the local engrained stereotypes, educate the community about his purpose, and find an identity among the village. Despite these hurdles, Me. Kehr managed to initiate numerous projects and achieve success as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
Pre Service T ra'ning Mr. Kehr began an intensive la-week pre-service training upon arrival in Ghana. He was sent to Ado
Nkwanta, a small agricultural town in the Eastern Region located two hours north of Accra, Ghana's capital city. During training, Mr. Kehr shared a compound house with an extended family consisting of 11 members - living without electricity or running water, eating the traditional Ghanaian dishes of fufu and banku, and learning how to utilize the local transportation system of tro-tros and taxis. In addition to learning how to live in Ghana, "l\1.r. Kehr underwent daily Peace Corps initiated training sessions. The general topics covered in training included:
Technical skills training promoted in the Peace Corps' Environmental sector Twi language lessons Methods on teaching HIV/ AIDS education Traditional cultural training, history, and sensitization to local norms Medical and Safety/Security training for life in Ghana
Mr. Kehr was taught the Ashanti Twi language and reached an intermediate-mid competenc level at he conclusion of the la-week program. As part of the technical training, Mr. Kehr participated in workshops focused on the raising of animals for food and income, basic permacultute techniques, erosion control, an improved farming practices. At the end of the la-week training Mr. Kehr successfully passed a final cnluation conducted by American and Ghanaian instructors.
Assignment On August 13,2009, Mr. Kehr completed training and was sworn in as a Peace Corps V IlDteer by the
United States l\mbassador to Ghana, Donald G. Teitelbaum, and Peace Corps Ghana Country Director, Mil< Yoffman. Mr. Kehr was assigned to Bodaa, a farming community of fewer than 1,000 people. Bodaa is located in the Jaman Soud1 District of the Brong Ahafo Region, two kilometers from the Cote d'Ivoue border and a full day's travel ftOm Accra. Bono Twi, a dialect ofTwi, is the local language, although English an French is
occasionally heard among the men and in the marketplace. The area lies within the wet, emi-equatorial re non, ha ing a mean annual rainfall ranging bet\veen 1200mm (47 in) a d l780mm (70 in). 'lhe community experiences a major rainy season from ~April to June and a minor rainy season in September and October. The average annual temperature is about 30"C (86"F). For most ofBodaa' - history, the fanner' engaged in the country's most lucrative agricultural sector: cocoa. However, due to widespread bush fir s in the 1980's rnany farmers 10 t e,-erything and subsequently switched to Cashew Farming, which is less vulnerable to fire outbreaks, and unfortunately, less profitable. ft. Kehr's placement and assignment had him working wid first and second-generation Ghanaian Cashew Farmers.
Primary Project Mr. Kehr was placed in the agricultural village ofBodaa as an Alternative Livelihoods Project fa ilitator.
The main occupation of c rrununity members in Bodaa is cashew farming and they were looking for additional sources of income gen >ration activities. The focus of the project was to educate, train, and assi tinter 'ted farmers in raising animals as an Alternative Livelihood Project (ALP). Since many of he farmers did not possess an educational level beyond primary or junior high school and were unfamiliar working with D reigners, an immense challenge confronted Mr. Kehr. For over a year, Mr. Kehr worked to build the trust needed and form the appropriate relationships before he was able to effectively educate the community on the potential benefits of raising animals. With the training acquired from the Peace Corps, ft. Kehr explained to interested corrununity members that ALPs not only promote higher standards of living by providing a sustainable source of food and income, but can also reduce the amount of time-farmers spend in the bush, thus minimizing their overall workload and their environmental impact. After performing a needs assessment of the illage, l'vIr. E ehI7 identified that tl1e community was particularly interested in raising a Ghanaian delicacy and indigenous speCIes, the grasscutter. Ultimately, it was decided that investing in the grasscutter was too expensive and too ris : due the creature's difficult nature to be domesticated. Since dus was the first effort at an ALP, the Bodaa fam1ers chose a safer and cheaper animal to raise, rabbits. Rabbits were selected because of their rapid reproduction rate, a wide ranging diet, and for their simple maintenance requirements.
Mr. Kehr worked alongside the Ghanaian Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) and their local Fxtension Officer, Muharruned Yakubu, to register and organize Bodaa farmers into a Farmer's Based Organization (FBO) - the fust ever created in Bodaa and during Mr. Yakubu's four year term. ;vfr. y-ehr also networked the corrunwuty with an established Ghanaian rabbit farm, 'Up-to-Date Farms,' located in the 13rong Ahafo regional capital, Sunyani. 'Up-to-Date Farms' suppli d the initial rabbit stock to Bodaa, and rl1eir chief farmer conducted three workshops for the farmers covering dle areas of feeding, maintenance, and marketing. In order to supply the Bodaa rabbit farmers with adequate rabbit housing, ~r. Kehr secured a Small Project Assistance Grant (SP ) from USAID. In total, 15 two-story rabbi hutches we e built fOt the farmer- and the project waS initiated on pril 5, 2011.
Throughout his primary project, rv[r. Kehr was a constant target for cormption from th corrun nity chief, various sub-chiefs, and counterparts. Because of Ius age, possession and control of grant money, 1\1,r. Kehr was p essured relentlessly by influential community members to divert money into altcrnati,-e individual projects. :\oft. Keht tirelessly explained that the available grant money was for the project and registered farmers only. Mr. I ehr refused to be impac ed by those who discouraged the project, accepted the necessary delays, and focused his efforts entirely on those who were truly interested in pursuing raising rabbits as an ALP.
Secondary Projects High-Intensive Agriculture. Mr. Kehr and his community counterpart built a model farm in front of his
home. Over the course of five grueling weeks, Mr. Kehr and his counterpart went into the Ghanaian bush \vith machetes to cut bamboo and wooden poles for construction. Mr. Kehr was not only taught the art of using a machete, but also the misery of carrying a large amount of weight on the top of his head over long distances!
Once completed, the model farm served as a teaching tool for the entire Bodaa community and demonstrated basic gardening principles such as: proper fence construction to discourage goats, tree nursery establishment, cultivating unfertile rocky soils with organi.c manure and growing food closer to home, using natural pesticides derived from local plants (especially the eem Tree), compost production using food and arumal waste, intercropping techniques, and integrated pest management practices. Nit. Kehr was also able to grow many non-traditional crops such as carrots, cabbage, lettuce, groundnuts, tigernuts, beans, and cucumbers. Throughout dr. Kehr's two year service he held coundess informal sessions with any curious communil)' member who stopped at his house. He also demonstrated to the Bodaa community the possibility of growing corn three times per year rather than their traditional two times, by planting early near a reliable water source
and inigating a few weeks before the rainy season. For the past two years fr. KchJ' has been the first Bodaa community member to harvest corn!
Moringa Cultivation. Mr. Kehr networked interested Bodaa farmers ith the Ghanaia Tanager of Intemational Permaculture Se i es, Paul Yeboah. It. Kehr organized 26 farmers from Bodaa and the neighboriJ1g village of Adamsu, and invited r r. Yeboah to discuss the possibility of gro\v-ing Mocinga. In 2 10 and 2011, the farmers had r ported 38 a res of Moringa were under cultivation. 10ringa is a mediclllal tr used for supplementlllg diets, pro iding all the essential amino acids, and are especially important for the development of young children and pregnant women. Mr. Kehr invited Mr. Ycboah back to Boclaa in L lay of 2011 to discuss the potential of producing medicinal soap and other income generat