Virginia Tech takes 4-H to children in Senegal
In a Senegalese village, children grow vegetable seedlings and organize money-raising traditional Senegalese wrestling events in a Positive Youth Development program modeled after Virginia Cooperative Extension's 4-H program.
At the Ndoumbouji primary school, where the main focus is gardening, "the teachers told us that every break they have, the students run to the garden," says Ozzie Abaye, a Virginia Tech professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "The group wants to try to expand the garden project outside of the campus."
Launched in March, the youth-development program is designed to motivate "young people to understand agriculture, to become agriculturalists, and to be involved in family farms and their communities," Abaye says. But the effect spanned generations. When a 4-H club meeting was called, "the entire community turned out. They are very happy that the kids are involved in doing something meaningful."
Like 4-H in the United States, these clubs enable university researchers and local extension agents to apply agricultural knowledge in ways that encourage change in the community led by the children themselves.
Several groups are behind the program, including two Senegalese universities, Peace Corps Senegal, the U.S. Agency for International Development-funded Education and Research in Agriculture in Senegal program (ERA-Senegal) and Virginia Cooperative Extension in partnership with the National 4-H Council.
More details about the program and photos can be found in the October issue of Outbursts. Abaye talks about the children's response to their new 4-H club in this YouTube video: