Friday, September 24, 2010

Home Again and Pictures!

Hello Everyone!
Now that we are home from Ghana and I have caught up on all my messages that greeted me upon my return to work, I wanted to share some pictures from the PICS trip. Please follow the link below:

Its interesting the changes in how I look at some things since my return. For example, watching ag producers here in Vermillion county harvest their crops, I realize how industrious agriculture really is. Its amazing.

I was able to talk about the PICS project the week of my return at our Vermillion County Annual Extension Meeting, many residents were so proud to see me and Purdue University reaching out in such a way through Extension. One comment was made "Extension never ceases to amaze me." I couldn't have put it better.

This experience and that comment will reside with me for a long time.
Thanks to all for following the blog!


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

PICS Training in pictures

PICS participants at Bolgatanga training

Community demonstration and facilitation session

Dr. Seini explains hermetic tecnology to participants

North Area Coordinator Mr. Clement reinforces need to adhere to PICS procedures to obtain maximum benefit.

Human Subjects Training for WV Staff

One of the new procedures introduced to our World Vision partners during our PICS training last week was Purdue Human Subjects protocols. The National Coordinator of the PICS partnership in Ghana, Dr. John Kumi, requested that I provide training to his staff--especially the inclusive aspects of IRB. He has also arranged a seminar at the Mampong Training College to discuss community engagement practices and workplace learning and capacity building. This is the general outline, but as most things go here--things could change, but I am ready.
See you soon,

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ejura Training

Hello from Ejura!!
Today, Tuesday, ended our second and last day of training in Ejura. We had 27 very eager participants that learned and discussed much over the last two days. This training was a smashing success! The evaluations we overwhelmingly postive and the AEAs are ready to get started sharing the good news of the PICS technology to their villages. The highlight of this training for me was completing a sack filling demonstration directly in the middle of the marketplace in Ejura. The market women were so happy; they were hugging, clapping, and anxious to buy the bags. The sights, people, smells (pepper and spices) and atmosphere made that visit truly an afternoon to remember. We also had the participants complete their practice demostration in a nearby village - again it went very well. You could tell they took the training and my advice on how to facilitate learning in such an enviroment very seriously and applied it very well. I have plenty of faith that the PICS program will be strong in Ghana.
Tomorrow I leave for Accra, and finish my journey here in Ghana. I look forward to having a bit of time to visit Accra's cultural gems and then board my plane for home!

Amanda Afia

Friday, August 27, 2010

And on to Kumasi!

Hello again!
Lets catch up on the last few days: trainings and traveling. George had a great post on the content of the trainings! The only thing the Tamale team did different was Wednesday morning (day 2), we traveled to the village of Bihhayuli so our training participants could actually complete /facillitate a village demonstration. If I had to describe it in one word - incredible. We arrived in the village on buses and the training team entering the village elder's house to greet him. We "sat" in a very low squating postion to do so. Soon after, all the villagers and participants gathered around a shade tree and the PICS triple bag demostration began. The participants were great! They really got everyone, woman and farmers, involved in asking questions and understanding the technology. It was worthwhile to see the efforts of the training team in action. These PICS workshops participants will be facilitating demonstrations like this in over 2800 villages in Ghana alone!!!! We wrapped up the day by making sure the participant's questions were all answered, enjoying a lively feedback session on the trainings, and passing out the resources the participants will need.

Thursday morning was spent gathering a few things in Tamale. I needed a new camera, as mine had broke Wednesday afternoon! All is well now, thanks to a few phone calls and the efforts of Espie. Espie is the PICS communications and media expert. She has done a fabulous job on promoting PICS. We had several media personnel present throughout the two day training.

Thursday afternoon, we left for the 6 hour drive to Kumasi and arrived safely in the evening.
This morning I spent a few hours learning about the Ashanti culture by visting the museum here in Kumasi. Such an interesting region: rich in history and tradition. I can hardly wait for what the next few days will hold here.

Thats all for now!

Amanda Afia

PICS Training day 2 in Bolgatanga

The second day of training was pretty straightforward. The focus was on review of training manual, and practice with real cowpeas to add enforcements to new learning.

Given the restrictive seating arrangement, participants paired-up (partner A/B) to respond to the following questions:
1. What I learned about PICS project
2. What worked well for me during the workshop
3. What did not work well
4. My questions and suggestions are…

Each partner had 15 minutes to respond. After the dyad session we moved to a whole group discussion. For me, this was the most interesting part because I learned a lot about the audience, their perceptions, experiences and concerns. More important, I was touched by their enthusiasm PICS technology especially around after harvest storage--which is the biggest challenge for farmers in this region. Between Clement, the area coordinator, Dr. Seini, the entomologists, Brother Idrissu, economist and me—we were able to respond to all of the questions and received some excellent suggestions from participants to discuss with program managers.
The collaborative spirit demonstrated at this workshop gave me some indication of the lengths that World Vision had to go—to bring partners like the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, representatives of the chemical industry, the media, market women, and Agricultural Extension Agents (AEA), farmers and community volunteers to attend this inaugural workshop. Interesting undertaking, with a couple of glaring organizational challenges. Even so, I am impressed with the way AEA’s have embraced this project.

The demonstrations were excellent. We formed teams and made the process look like a game. It was a little competitive at times. Everyone witnessed the simplicity of the technology and felt motivated and enabled to share what they have learned with their communities—and to recruit volunteers for the open the bag celebrations in May 2011.

Ok, it is time to head to Tamale for debriefing with our team and then back to Bolgatanga to sit on the crocodiles at Paga and get ready for the workshops on Monday and Tuesday.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

PICS Team in Ghana

Purdue team: Dioudonne, Amanda and George

Here are pictures of some members of the team. Picture taken after orientation session in Tamale. People in picture Ester, Clement, Amanda, James, Dr. Mumuni and John Kuni. More pictures to come.

Greetings from Bolgatanga

Just arrived at the World Vision office in Bongo to check e-mail and catch up with the rest of the world.
The team had a wonderful session today at Bolgatanga. My teaching partners, Dr. Shaibu Sieni—the entomologist, and Bro. Idrissu—the economist, were fabulous. After initial introductions and welcome message by World Vision Bolga Manager, Benedicta Poealore, we were ready to begin the training. The resident agronomist, Dr. Siani, provided a presentation about insects and their challenges on cowpea. The presentation and interaction was excellent. His explanation of triple bagging technology was very persuasive. He engaged the 60 Extension field agents and business representatives in a discussion around what methods they were using—and how the triple bagging technology presented an excellent opportunity to reduce, and certainly eliminated the use of chemicals in cowpea storage.

The resident economist, Bro. Iddrissu led the group to examined opportunity costs, including value creation prospects that the PICS program will bring to local economies. The practical examples, group discussion and excellent participant involvement were incredibly awesome. The economic opportunities that the PICS program presents was very well explained and embraced by this group. Frankly, I have learned more about this project by listening to individual stories and experiences with chemicals. I have also learned about the pros and cons of other indigenous methods for storing cowpeas. The afternoon session was devoted to facilitation methods and village demonstration protocols. My presentation focused on facilitation skills, and ways of being that makes it easy for people to accept and engage a new technology. The interaction, participation and sharing of experiences was fantastic. I completed the workshop by explaining Purdue Human subjects protocols, including the necessity for documentation, participant consent, and following the protocols set by the PICS program.

Finally, I led participants through the pre-demonstration by making it easy for them to discuss and find ways to identify influential people, friends, chiefs and opinion leaders and community partners to help make this project successful. Looks like all the prep work is paying off and I am delighted to play a role in making this project work. Tomorrow is for practice, demonstration, and more practice of triple bagging. Stay tuned. So far--so good.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Greetings from Tamale!

Hello from Tamale Ghana!
We have made the journey from Accra to the northern region and the city of Tamale. Today, George and I meet our teams and went over the PICS training. Everyone is real excited to begin training. George is now on his way to Bolgatanga, while I stayed here in Tamale. We had great discussion generated. I really feel that our Extension input was helpful in helping the other team members understand what we need to impress upon the Ghanaian agents. Its important for the Ghanaian agents to be able to facilitate learning in their villages and not just hand over the information.
I hope to blog more on the first day of training tomorrow.

On my cultural experience so far, so glad I do not have to drive here. Cars, motorcycles, bikes, goats, cows all share the road. My driver thinks its funny I worry about the animals - they roam free here. I told him I guess its just the animal scientist in me. We went to the produce market - it was very strange to have people all looking at me. They have alot of stands very close together with just one path for walking through them. Noticed my first cowpeas. Tomatoes (which are bumpy here), fruits, meat (just sitting out in the open!), beautiful cloth, grains, flour, yams (popular) are some of the most common things. Went to the craft market too and bought some gifts. Talked African art with a vendor - they enjoy a lot of human figures in abstract conditions and forms. Bright colors - orange, red, bright blues.
The weather here is warm and a bit muggy in the afternoons. However, its been cloudy and breezy and fairly comfortable.
Saw the new Tamale Football (soccer) stadium - very nice. Our driver got us a quick look inside too. They were having junior youth team tryouts. It was fun to watch all the young kids glued to the fence watching, cheering and having fun.
I going to try to go see the grain warehouse tomorrow. Somehow I think I might find that interesting. They grow some corn and rice here, along with their cowpeas. Its the rainy season right now, so I am seeing more rice than I expected.

That's all for now!
Amanda afia(which means Friday born)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ghana- A Brief Look

I’m all packed and ready to leave tomorrow. I can tell my dogs are not excited about my packed bags; they have been following me around all day. At one point while packing, my Labrador laid on my packing list and was determined not to move. It was cute, and made me not want to leave for about one second.

We fly out of Indy to Dulles airport in DC and then onto Accra, Ghana. Although our schedule isn’t concrete until George and I meet the rest of our teams, I thought it might be nice to give a snapshot of where my schedule is taking me currently, but it all can change!

The city of Accra has been Ghana's capital since 1877, and it stretches along the Atlantic Coast. Its architecture ranges elegant 19th Century colonial buildings to skyscrapers and apartment blocks made of concrete, glass and steel in the 1970s. Shanty towns at the city's edges are where the majority of Accra's ever expanding population can be found. The city is well gifted with luxury hotels, excellent restaurants and night clubs. A range of museums, monuments, modern business and commercial areas, as well as busy markets and tree-lined residential suburbs, also can be found. The centre of Accra contains the main banks, the large department stores, the Cocoa Marketing board headquarters and a whole area known as The Ministries, where the government administration is concentrated. The beaches around this area and up the coast are also well known and beautiful tourist spots.

Tamale is the capital city of the Northern region of Ghana. Being close to the Sahara Desert (in comparison with other major cities in Ghana), one has the opportunity to enjoy a true tropical sunbath in Tamale. The hamattan (very dry winds from November to March) season presents two extreme weather conditions each day. There is the extreme cold temperature of the early dawns and morning and the very warm afternoon. This area is mostly inhabited by the Mole-Dagomba linguistic group. The city is home to about 350,000 people. It is a nodal city that serves as convergence zone as well as the commercial capital of the three northern regions. Tamale is reputed to be one of the fastest growing cities in West Africa. Even though limited in natural resources, seasonal farming is the major occupation of the natives. There is a suburb called Education Ridge in the northwestern part of the city where one can find over 20 schools crammed together ranging from Kindergartens through junior secondary and senior secondary schools, teachers training colleges, and the central administration of the only university in the northern part of Ghana.

Kumasi is a very important and historical centre for Ghana. Tradition is held very high in Kumasi and blends very well with modernity. It is popularly known as "The Garden City" or "heart beat" of Ghana because of its many beautiful species of flowers and plants. The ancient capital of the Ashanti kingdom, Kumasi is still the heart of Ashanti country and the site of West Africa's largest cultural center, the palace of the Ashanti king. To add to the appeal, it's surrounded by rolling green hills and has a vast central market as vibrant as any in Africa.

Sounds like quite the educational and cultural snapshot. I can’t wait to get over there and meet the people!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Teaching and Learning in Ghana

As countdown to PICS Ghana draws to a close, I feel blessed to be part of a group of dedicated philanthropist, professors, program coordinators, educators, and others who have contributed to the ongoing success of the Purdue Improved Cowpea storage project in West and Central Africa. Influencing the use of non chemical hermitic methods and Purdue’s triple bagging technology to store cowpeas, enables greater economic activity, reduces starvation and improves quality of life. I am wholeheartedly committed to this project. It’s ironic how things happen when you set a clear intention. Around this time last year I met with my program leader, Sam Cordes to discuss professional development and advancement opportunities at Purdue. We discussed many possibilities and left the meeting convinced that I wanted to experience myself differently—by engaging in assignments that provide me a platform to exert my influence and change minds and thoughts in Africa. Sam recommended that I meet with Dr. Jess Lowenberg-Deboer to express my international interests. I learned about the Purdue PICS program when I met Jess. I was not available to travel the first year to Nigeria, but told him that I would be delighted to serve when the Ghana opportunity came around in 2010.

Well, things went quiet for months until I met my friend Jim Murren at a meeting in early spring. He asked me why I had not applied for the Ghana educator opportunity. Frankly, I am not sure what happens to my e-mail sometimes, but I completely missed that announcement. I asked Jim to send me the notice and I was able to submit my application before the deadline. The rest is history and I am grateful to all of the people who have played a role in getting me here, especially Chuck whose international perspective about the role of extension is impeccable, Ron who agreed that I have been looking for such an opportunity for a long time and Rick, who just said—George I think this is a great opportunity—Go for it!

I get goose bumps when I think of this opportunity. I envisioned it—and most people around me, made it happen. It is humbling to work for an organization that in addition to its local focus also has an international agenda to make a difference worldwide—especially in Africa. Ok, so you understand my excitement—but the juiciest part is that, I was born in Ghana and have a large family there. Now I am an American citizen with a US passport. I need a visa when I am going to Ghana. In Ghana, my folks say I am too America and when I come to Indiana—they say I am different and have an accent. Even when I tell people I am a die hard Pacers and Colts Hoosier—they look at me and laugh. That is the complexity and blessing of my life. Even so, I get to use my land grant university training to give back to Ghana. I am extremely excited and humbled at the same time. I will be leaving for Ghana with my colleague Amanda this week. We will teach from the same script, but our experiences will be different. We will teach in Tamale, Wa and Bolgatanga (have never been there before) so the experience will be challenging but interesting. After two weeks we’ll be back in Accra and I will stay an extra week to visit with family and friends. I have also arranged an education session with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture staff to share my American Extension experience and learn from them.

I intend to represent Purdue well and hope to share the rest of the journey with constituents, colleagues and other interested parties. You can learn about Ghana and follow me at This afternoon, I work at the Extension hospitality room at the state fairgrounds and then roam around after 6pm and have my annual elephant ears snack in the evening. See you soon.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Just 8 more days

Hello all!
I just can’t believe August is here and in just 8 tiny days I will anxiously sitting on an airplane awaiting my arrival to Ghana. I have been looking forward to representing Purdue Extension on this PICS project for months and now its here! I can say I have started packing and I worry about how little I have in there. I only have a few things left to gather, but it just doesn’t look enough to prepare me for the 2 week trip ahead. Admittedly, I can be a “just in case” packer, so packing light is a challenge. I have all my documentation ready and I keep checking it every so often, I guess just in case it walks off or something. (what a scary thought! ) And I just finished my last vaccine yesterday. Let me tell you – keeping a vaccine refrigerated while you are working at the Indiana State Fair was an interesting endeavor, but it was done!
The thing I am most looking forward to is meeting the people of Ghana and my team. I can’t wait to learn all about Ghana and its customs. It really is fascinating what I have read already. Two weeks hardly seems enough time to be able to arrive, educate, demonstrate, and leave in our wake a new technology that will positively change the way cowpeas are stored in West Central Africa is extraordinary. I am so blessed to have this cultural, professional, and personal experience – It’s hard to believe it’s my job!
Here at home in Vermillion County, I am blown away with the support, questions, and well wishes I have received so far. I have not met one person who didn’t want to know more and is awaiting my return to tell them all about it. In fact, I have three speaking commitments for when I return already booked.
Just 8 more days….then off to parts unknown!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Challenge: Transportation

These are some of the 185 motorcycles that are sitting in storage at a state Agricultural Development Program (ADP) office. They were bought with the intention of being provided to the Extension Agents (EAs), but money that was to come down from the Governor to pay for them to be registered never made it to the ADP.

So there they sit. Unused. Since April.

The Extension Director was visibly saddened by this reality, one all too familiar in Nigeria. Currently, EAs get around on foot, and/or by using public transportation, if they have the money to pay for it.

From what I gathered during the two weeks of working with the EAs, if they had dependable transportation, they could get a lot more work done, and want to get more done.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Pictures from around Nigeria

Woman roasting ears of maize and goats eating the husks
The group of EA's in Kaduna

A bull at the training inLokoja.

A role play scenario action shot.