Ken Kilner would much rather be in a field in rural Senegal than fundraising online, but stepping outside his comfort zone is how he got here in the first place. Fundraising makes him uncomfortable, but after spending two weeks with farmers in rural Senegal through NCBA CLUSA’s USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program, he knew he had to get his community involved.
Kilner worked with the Association for the Development of Daande Maayo in Senegal this summer, training smallholder farmers on proper pesticide use and how to lower costs and stay safe by switching to natural and organic methods.
For rural communities in Senegal, chemical spraying can be a serious health hazard and increasingly unaffordable. Many times, large scale annual spraying is retroactive, and often too late. Understanding these challenges, Kilner recommended a shift in pest control away from large scale chemical spraying and toward an Integrated Pest Management system that emphasizes preventative practices and community produced organic treatments.
“Most importantly, implementing such a regime will put pest management back where it belongs, in the hands of farmer,” Kilner said in his final report.
Many of the tips for pest control can be done in the field, such as crop rotation to keep the soil healthy and crops resilient, planting certain types of trees or other crops that draw pests away from harvests.
Kilner noted that switching to organic growing was not impossible, but would take time, patience, discipline and much experimentation. However, much of the discussion could only stay academic without access to organic sprayers to apply regular treatments weekly.
Here is where Kilner is looking to his community. He left two sprayers behind to use for testing the suggested treatments on small plots. Each sprayer is in the custody of a knowledgeable and trusted individual—one from each of the two training locations. It was agreed and understood that the backpacks will be loaned out when asked for, so that individual villagers can learn how to use them and test organic solutions on a trial basis. But until more spray backpacks are available there is a limit to how many plots can convert.
To that end, Kilner set up a Go Fund Me page called Fund a Farmer to donate for spray backpacks that can be sent over through the Farmer-to-Farmer program.
“They have the knowledge, and believe me, they are eager to use it,” Kilner said on the Fund a Farmer page.
To continue the practical application of Kilner’s training, consider funding a spray backpack for a Senegalese farmer to start the process of moving away from dangerous and expensive chemical spraying.
Interested in being a volunteer? Check out NCBA CLUSA’s Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer opportunities.