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Fall 2009 - Sowing Change

Destination Purdue > Fall 2009 - Sowing Change

Students sowing change in Ghana

By Shawna Hubbard

Nick Frey teaches

Photo provided by Erin Wiley

Nick Frey, a junior farm management major, emphasizes a point about supply and demand to students in Aquwoqsa, Ghana. Frey taught basic economics to the group to help them to help them increase the profits from their farm produce. Erin Wiley (far right), a junior elementary education major, looks on.

Matt Stine and Nick Frey hoped that someone would recognize them from their photos when they arrived at the airport last December in Accra, Ghana.

They hit the ground and the heavy humidity ready to travel to a small village in the western African country, but the details of their itinerary were still up in the air. Although the Purdue students didn't know exactly what to expect, they were determined to use their agricultural knowledge to help a struggling farm.

Stine, a senior from Wingate, Ind., found out about the 40-acre farm in Aquwoqsa, Ghana, in 2006 from a professor who had visited it. "Hearing about this farm and its purpose while I was at Lincoln Christian College, as the farm was just beginning, inspired me to start seriously considering agriculture as my profession," said Stine. Transferring to Purdue to study soil and crop management fit with his new career goals.

Stine learned that the farm workers needed help making the farm more profitable, since it supports five rural churches in Ghana. Stine remembered the story and jumped at the chance to finally make the trip in December 2008. At Stine’s invitation, Frey, a junior farm management major from Darlington, Ind., joined his friend's quickly arranged expedition. Erin Wiley, a junior elementary education major from Lafayette, Ind., accompanied them.

'Potato of the tropics' has many uses
By Shawna Hubbard

One of the crops grown in Ghana and throughout the tropics is cassava.

Because it is a great source of carbohydrates, cassava might be thought of as the "potato of the tropics". The roots are used to make many food products, including cassava chips, cassava juice and tapoica, which is the starch extracted from the roots.

The three Purdue students who traveled to Ghana last December frequently ate cassava either boiled or roasted over a fire in its skin.

Find out more:

Purdue Agriculture Study Abroad
Purdue GOinAG

Stine, Frey and Wiley never directly communicated with anyone in Aquwoqsa, but they took off with a desire to serve and trusted that plans would fall into place. The Americans counted on a Ghanaian pastor, Isaac Opuni-Akosah, to make all the arrangements and guide them throughout the trip.

"My parents thought I was dumb as heck," said Frey.

Stine and Frey expected the farm to be in poor condition, based on information from their African contact. "They told us we could spit on the ground and make it better," said Frey.

The farm was actually producing many crops such as cocoa, oranges, peppers, corn, cassava and pineapples, but the workers were not able to make profit from the produce. "We had to try to get them to understand how to maximize what they've got," said Frey.

So the three Purdue students headed to the local schoolhouse, where four farm workers and about 10 villagers came to hear the Americans speak during the 95-degree days. Stine taught them about fertilizer and pesticide use, new concepts to the workers. He used a fire analogy to explain the pesticides are helpful if used properly, but they can also be dangerous if misused.

Wiley observed all the classroom interactions. She said that using visuals was important, such as when Stine brought in a corn plant from the field. The American teachers discovered they needed to have the Ghanaians repeat and translate the material to make sure the workers completely understood it.

The team continued to adapt to needs as they arose. In one case, Frey talked about concepts like supply and demand for a whole day, covering material taught in a basic agricultural economics class at Purdue. The chalkboard he used was simply a rectangle of concrete wall painted black. Still, the workers were attentive and ready to learn. "They took notes like crazy," said Frey.

Frey said Americans would take for granted may of the subjects he taught in Ghana. He added that educational opportunities are much different there because Ghanaians lack resources. "It's not that they don't want to learn or that they can't, there's just nothing there," said Frey.

Before going to Ghana, Frey studied abroad in China, which gave him the travel bug. He said Purdue's diverse atmosphere has influenced him to travel more.

Wiley said her own study-abroad trip to South Africa gave her a desire to see different world locations and to go back to a less developed part of Africa. She said she enjoyed playing with the children in the village, but she definitely stuck out as the only redhead in the group.

Frey and Wiley agreed that it is important for all college students, especially those from small Indiana towns, to go abroad and understand that the American way isn't the only lifestyle out there. "Even though it sounds cliché, you can't appreciate your own culture until you aren't in it," said Frey.

Despite any uncertainties at the beginning of the trip, Frey said the experience made him realize the value of a Purdue education. He wasn't the only one who learned something from the visit - the workers e-mailed a few weeks later telling Stine about the changes they were making on the little farm in western Africa.