My first stop was England. London in the autumn was a bit rainy and chilly for my tastes, but I received a warm welcome from the organizers, presenters, and attendees at Africa Gathering. I gave a presentation about Africa Rural Connect to an audience of social entrepreneurs, technologists, development workers, and Africa enthusiasts, who all appreciated the bottom-up approach that NPCA was taking to solving Africa’s rural challenges. I learned about the creative start-up efforts people with varied connections to Africa were undertaking, and it was a wonderful opportunity to hear the stories and successes of others in this space.
From London, I had a brief overnight retreat with my NPCA colleagues in the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia, where we all were able to interact in a serene yet casual environment and discuss our visions for the upcoming year. We elaborated on our preparations for the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps, and how we would each contribute to reaching NPCA’s goals of connecting, informing, and engaging the Peace Corps community.From the mountains of Virginia to the hills of Iowa, I jumped on a flight to celebrate the World Food Prize and attend the Borlaug Dialogue in Des Moines, Iowa, with thought leaders and decision makers from around the world. After a keynote speech by Bill Gates who announced the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s nine new grants for agricultural development, I listened to panels and speeches by current and former presidents of African countries, government ministers of agriculture, and other voices that fight poverty including Jeffery Sachs and Roger Thurow. Highlights of the World Food Prize experience included a formal ceremony at the State Capitol building with the governor, Ethiopian dancers, and singer Chachi Tadesse. World Food Prize winner, Dr. Gebisa Ejeta – who helped create drought-resistant hybrids of sorghum that have enhanced the food supply of hundreds of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa – got up and started dancing with the band, in typical Peace Corps style. There were RPCVs among the attendees and I tried to meet as many as I could.
All of these trips gave me perspective about the efforts that both those who are working from the ground up and starting their own initiatives to impact hundreds of people, to those who are running countries that impact hundreds of millions of people, can do to improve agricultural initiatives around the world. NPCA’s role will be to provide a platform to connect these people online.
I won’t be back in DC for long. As the transition to winter arrives, so too does a fantastic opportunity to travel to Kenya where I will be presenting the Grand Prize winner of Africa Rural Connect at the Africa Gathering conference in Nairobi on December 21. You’ll be able to read more about our efforts to reach out to the African Diaspora, people in sub-Saharan Africa, and the Peace Corps Community on this and the Africa Rural Connect website. I look forward to sharing the experiences with you.