Chapter twenty-one: Recommendations for in-country training
Full In-country Technical training:
• As is always the case when the site and staff for the training program changes, modifications must be made in order to accommodate the circumstances. This is true when stateside programs change locations, and is equally true when the program goes from a stateside to an in-country situation. Without addressing a specific site and its specific circumstances, it is difficult to make recommendations regarding the exact adjustments that need to be made. However, it should be emphasized that even though the specifics will vary as a program is adjusted to any new location and staff, the basic design, the material that is covered, the emphasis on the development of a wide variety of technical and personal skills, and the high standards that have always been maintained in fisheries training should not and need not change.
• Sometimes the argument is made that it is a waste of time to teach trainees about techniques or levels of technology that they will probably never see or apply in their country of assignment. If this philosophy becomes the basis for a training program, the trainees and the host country will lose something very valuable. The most important basic premises of aquaculture training have always been the strong emphasis on skill development, provision of a very broad base of knowledge and experience, development of a sound understanding of technical concepts and principles (not just facts), and development of trainees' confidence. The goal is to prepare trainees to deal competently with any technical situation, problem or challenge and to have a deep enough understanding to be self-reliant and make responsible, solid decisions. This is different from simply teaching a person how to accomplish a series of tasks within one specific set of circumstances. Trainees have had opportunities to envision what the possibilities are in aquaculture, to see how an aquaculture industry can develop and how it can provide a livelihood for people. This kind of vision allows the trainees to see what they are doing in a broader perspective and can greatly increase their enthusiasm and sense of commitment. They are able to approach their work and make decisions with thought for the long-term ramifications and a consideration for what those decisions will mean in the context of an ongoing process of development. The approach described here should not be sacrificed if training is to be conducted in-country. There is sometimes a tendency to think that since some of the higher-technology practices and equipment are not readily available, that trainees' learning must be brought down to a lower level, covering just the bare bones. This is not true. With hard work and creativity on the part of the training staff, the same philosophy and essential practices can be applied to in-country training as have been applied to stateside training in Oklahoma and South Carolina, even though many of the specifics will be different and modifications must be made.
• Advantage should be taken of the opportunities provided by in-country training, such as the availability of a wide variety of local feeds, fertilizers, various tilapiine species (trainees should learn to identify them), etc. There are opportunities for trainees to practice extension in a situation that will motivate them because they see the direct application even more clearly than in stateside training. Site selection exercises are often easier to do incountry in that there is often access to better sites.
• On the other hand, do not let in-country training provide an excuse for limiting learning opportunities and resources. For example, just because it may be more difficult, perhaps even impossible, to provide pelleted feed for the training site along with local byproducts used for feed by farmers in that area, it is still important for the trainees to learn about the existence of commercially produced pelleted feed and to understand the processes used to produce it. Just because host country fish farmers will not have access to Hach water quality test kits does not mean that trainees shouldn't use them during training to learn about the principles of water quality. By using these tools as trainees, they will be able to gain an understanding of what the various parameters mean, how they are interrelated, what causes changes in them, how they affect the fish, and so on. Once they have this knowledge, they can apply it in practical situations, be effective at trouble-shooting and help the farmers understand why they are being encouraged to practice certain management techniques even if they never see a Hach kit again during their service.
• The resources may be different, but there are probably many of them. Staff may find it more difficult to identify, locate and communicate with resource people, so all pretraining research should start early. It should be possible to arrange a field trip during in-country training as well. If there is little going on with aquaculture in that country, it may be possible to incorporate visits to fish farmers, hatcheries and any other aquaculture-related stops with an overview of some parallel industry that is somewhat more developed in that country (chickens, cacao, etc.). Logistics of a field trip in-country are certainly more challenging, so again, preparations should begin as early as possible and will probably require even more legwork than in stateside programs.
• Peace Corps Volunteers working in the fisheries programs in the country where training is being conducted can be excellent resources. Although the training schedule is too tight and too strict to allow for casual, unarranged visits at any time, a formally scheduled social event to which volunteers are invited would be a good idea. Also, individual fisheries volunteers can be invited to come serve as resources on specific topics. In this case, each invited volunteer should prepare a presentation before his/her visit on a topic that has been agreed upon by him/her and the training staff.
• Be cautious about letting the trainees get too distracted by the cross-culture aspects that are inherent in doing training in-country. Certainly, this cannot be ignored and trainees should receive some cross-cultural orientation soon after they arrive so that they can live and work effectively and courteously in the area. However, the main focus of this part of their training should be on developing their aquaculture and extension related skills, similar to stateside training. If an attempt is made to incorporate too many cross-culture activities, too much time and energy will be taken from their technical training. (This point assumes that trainees will receive further language and cross-culture training in a separate program after completing their technical training).
• While on the topic of cross-cultural aspects of in-country training, it is worth noting that this can raise new considerations regarding the implementation of training activities that are not quite as critical in stateside training. As trainees go through the learning process they will inevitably make some mistakes in their technical work. While major errors that result in high fish mortality, poorly built structures, damage, and waste are certainly never taken lightly, there is some leeway in a stateside program where the effects of errors are usually confined to the training site (except when work in being conducted with or for someone outside the program). In stateside programs, there must be an awareness of how the program and the people associated with it will fit in and/or impact on the local community. In in-country training, extra sensitivity is required. A Peace Corps training site in-country is normally much more highprofile than in a stateside situation, and the activities of the trainees are usually widely observed by people living in the local area. It is imperative to respect those people and be sensitive to them. Judgements that are already delicate in a stateside program become even more delicate. For example, the first time trainees harvest a pond, there is a good possibility that in at least one instance some fish will be lost down the drain before the trainees work out the timing for putting a net or screen across it. In a stateside program, the staff members observing this might choose to allow a few fish to escape before calling it to the trainees' attention so that the consequences of overlooking this important step will have maximum impact. In discussing the implications of those lost fish in terms of wasted food, the point would be very well reinforced and it is unlikely the trainees would make the mistake again. In a program that is taking place in a developing country, any waste of fish, even for the sake of learning, might be unacceptable.
• One advantage with some in-country training sites is that when trainees live, eat and work in the same area, a great deal of time will be saved in terms of logistics. If trainees can easily walk to their ponds at any time without being dependent upon training staff to provide transportation, they will be able to spend more time working with their fish and be hefter managers. They will have a greater sense of responsibility regarding their ponds because of their independence. With less time being spent in transport, there may even be enough time to do the masonry project early and leave time for a small pond construction project during Week Seven. All of this will need to be determined by the on-site staff.
In-country Technical Orientation (following stateside or regional technical training program):
• Request and act upon recommendations from technical training staff regarding areas that should be further reinforced or supplemented.
• The areas in which trainees usually feel the least confidence are site selection, pond design and pond construction. Site selection/pond design exercises should be conducted in the kind of terrain in which trainees will actually work once they go to their sites. If they have not constructed a pond during their technical training, they should absolutely have the opportunity to do so during their in-country technical orientation.
• Trainees should have an opportunity to learn about and see all local sources of feeds, fertilizers and other resources. They should be taught the local names for these items and where they can be obtained.
• Trainees should learn about the specific agricultural practices of farmers in the areas in which they will be working. They should be made familiar with local industries, byproducts of those industries, and the history of how those industries have developed as well as their present status. They should be well informed about both cash crops and food crops being produced, consumed and marketed by the local farmers. They should learn about the economics of the area and about marketing strategies used for various products. They should observe prices of various foods and foodstuffs, and compare prices of similar products (similar in terms of what they provide nutritionally and/or in the way they are used. For example, chicken, fish, beef and pork are all similar in that they are protein sources). Attention should be given to opportunity costs. For example, how much could a farmer make in a given area using a given piece of land to produce fish rather than corn? They should learn enough about agricultural, economic and social activities and concerns to be able to put aquaculture into the context of the other aspects of people's lives.
• Trainees should have an opportunity to see and to learn to identify all major species of local freshwater fish that they are likely to encounter. This include species being cultured, species being caught in rivers and lakes, species found in markets, etc. They should learn about sources of culture fish, and especially about sources of Oreochromis niloticus.
• Another area in which trainees generally lack confidence and always need more practice is extension. Extension activities should be included in in-country orientation, and trainees should be given opportunities to get input from experienced volunteers.
• Although trainees generally feel more confident about pond management than they do about construction and extension, it is important that the importance and difficulty of promoting good pond management be stressed. It is easy for volunteers to get caught up in the tangible challenges posed by pond construction but to be less diligent about the more subtle area of pond management. This can happen for several reasons: progress is more difficult to detect so there is less, or less immediate, satisfaction, farmers can lull volunteers into a false sense of complacency by verbally implying that they are practicing better management than they really are, or there may be pressures on volunteers to report higher numbers of ponds being built. Trainees should be forewarned about this issue during in-country orientation and the importance of promoting good management should be reinforced.
• Trainees should be well informed about the programming and political aspects of aquaculture in their country of service. They should learn about the history of aquaculture in the country and about the history and goals of the existing fisheries program. It is important for them to understand the long-term plan for aquaculture development and to see exactly what their role is in that plan. They should learn about existing infrastructure. They should be well informed about how the fisheries program and related programs are administered, and have a clear understanding of organizational hierarchies, how different organizations interact, and especially where they will fit into the existing administrative structure. They should learn about required reports, i.e., formats, to whom and how often they are to be submitted, how they will be used, the flow of information, etc.
• Pre-service training provides trainees with the essential basic skills and knowledge they need to perform their jobs. However, as volunteers gain experience, they inevitably encounter problems and challenges that either could not have been foreseen or for which they could not have prepared themselves until experiencing the need. In addition, goals and perspective can become clouded by the difficulties and frustrations of day to day activities. Some volunteers may miss out on important job-related information or developments if they are isolated at their sites. It is imperative, therefore, that each country provide occasional in-service training over the course of each volunteer's service.
• The actual content to be covered during in-service training must be determined for each individual program and will depend upon the needs of the volunteers, the farmers and the programs. In-service training can address additional skill development in areas cited by the volunteers. It should certainly provide an opportunity for volunteers to discuss issues such as the goals and directions of the program, the goals and directions of their individual work, the problems they share or can help one another to solve. They should be encouraged to share techniques and ideas they find helpful for various technical and/or extension aspects of their work. Field staff can provide information and updates regarding programming issues, political issues, and communications with the ministries. They can provide and elicit feedback for the volunteers, themselves, Peace Corps and ministry officials. Some of this can be accomplished during periodic fisheries volunteer meetings. The key difference is the skill development which takes place with the help of outside expertise during in- service training.
Completion of Service:
• In training, much attention is given to the concept of the Experiential Learning Cycle. Life is actually comprised of series and layers of experiential learning cycles, and the two years of Peace Corps service can be viewed as one of those cycles. Thus, it is critical that volunteers approaching their completion of service have an opportunity to process and assess their experience. Again, the actual content of Completion of Service training must be developed on an individual basis for each program, and Peace Corps/Washington has a lot of information that can be helpful in designing the COS training.
• As already stated, Completion of Service training should serve as an opportunity to process the volunteers' Peace Corps experiences. They should have an opportunity to analyze the results of their work, and to explore the effects that their work will have on an individual level (the farmers with whom they worked), and within the context of the overall program both in the immediate sense and from a long-term perspective. They should be encouraged to focus on how they have been affected as individuals as well personal skills and qualities they have developed, what they have learned about themselves, how they have benefited from their experience, etc.
• On a practical level in terms of the program and future volunteers who will serve in it, effort should be put into strengthening institutional memory. The experiences and contributions of each volunteer can be of value to the volunteers who will follow and work to keep the program moving forward. This can prevent errors from being repeated and ensure that successful techniques and ideas continue to be incorporated into the implementation of the program. Each volunteer should be required to leave a thorough, detailed final report that can be used by the volunteer(s) who follow. The reports will also be extremely valuable to the program administrators for helping them evaluate and analyze the progress of the program and update the design as needed. Along similar lines, field staff and other program administrators and policy-makers should listen carefully as COS'ing volunteers share their observations and recommendations.
• Finally, Completion of Service training should help prepare the volunteers for the immediate and long term future. The realities of readjustment should be addressed. Options and suggestions regarding future career planning should be included, and volunteers interested in continuing in the aquaculture field should be made aware of opportunities or contacts they could explore upon their return to the United States.