Avoiding the brain drain with development talent

January 9, 2014

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Over the past 40 years, BRAC has grown from a small relief organization into the world’s largest NGO. Yet despite this scale, BRAC is always looking for new ways to improve its programs for the 135 million people it serves around the world. One such way is to ensure that BRAC International’s country programs are filled with qualified and capable local individuals with first-hand knowledge of the community landscape and local culture.

Over the past 40 years, BRAC has grown from a small relief organization into the world’s largest NGO. Yet despite this scale, BRAC is always looking for new ways to improve its programs for the 135 million people it serves around the world. One such way is to ensure that BRAC International’s country programs are filled with qualified and capable local individuals with first-hand knowledge of the community landscape and local culture. To help facilitate this goal, BRAC USA and BRAC International recently established an internship program with EARTH University that directly addresses this need for well-educated national talent. The BRAC-EARTH partnership was facilitated by the MasterCard Foundation and is an intentional collaboration designed to amplify impact through connecting like-minded organizations.

Founded in 1990, EARTH University is an innovative four-year undergraduate institute that brings together students from all over the world for training in agricultural sciences and natural resources management. EARTH University places an emphasis on values, ethical entrepreneurship, and a social commitment to sustainable community development, and as a result, the University can claim that 84% of its graduates are currently working in their countries of origin. This last part is of great importance to BRAC International as it looks to encourage and develop an educational pipeline for qualified college graduates to become BRAC employees.

With this in mind, in September 2013, BRAC Sierra Leone welcomed Joseph Musa, a junior from EARTH University, as the first official participant in the BRAC-EARTH University internship program. Joseph, a native of Bo, Sierra Leone, was hired as an agricultural intern in BRAC’s Bo Area Regional Agriculture office, where in addition to gaining valuable first-hand work experience, he worked to transfer his agricultural knowledge and skills to BRAC field staff, BRAC model farmers, and local clients.

Joseph Musa, a student at EARTH University, provides agricultural training to local farmers as part of his internship with BRAC Sierra Leone.

Joseph Musa, a student at EARTH University, provides agricultural training to local farmers as part of his internship with BRAC Sierra Leone.

At the grassroots level, BRAC Sierra Leone’s Agriculture Program operates through experienced, self-employed community agriculture promoters (CAPs). CAPs are farmers selected from BRAC’s microfinance groups who then receive training on farming techniques covering the entire life cycle of specific crop varieties. Upon completion of their training, each CAP identifies 250 small-scale farmers living in the surrounding community, of which in turn 40 become model farmers who specialize in crop production and promote good farming practices to their neighbors. CAPs assist farmers with technical issues and provide information on a wide range of topics, such as crop choice, intercropping, weeding, planting, pest control, post-harvest management, and the utilization of by-products. Furthermore, CAPs are a crucial source of agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizer.

Over the course of Joseph’s three and a half month internship, he was called upon to assist with all of these activities, as well as to provide technical training and workshops to Bo Area CAPs and local farmers both out in the field and at the BRAC office. As explained by Joseph, “I personally learned and gained a lot from the activities I implemented during my internship with BRAC Sierra Leone. All of these [activities] were done to provide a step-by-step progression for Sierra Leonean farmers to produce higher-yield and achieve food security.” With Joseph’s assistance, the Bo Area office was able to provide training to a total of 950 farmers: 750 kitchen gardeners, 25 model farmers, 25 maize demonstration plot farmers, 25 rice farmers, 75 general farmers, and 50 community agriculture promoters. In addition, Joseph helped organize five nutrition awareness campaigns in the Bo Area BRAC offices and five village nutrition meetings.

Joseph Musa (left), an intern with BRAC Sierra Leone, helps organize and lead a nutrition awareness campaign in his hometown of Bo, Sierra Leone.

Joseph Musa (left), an intern with BRAC Sierra Leone, helps organize and lead a nutrition awareness campaign in his hometown of Bo, Sierra Leone.

Overall, by interning with BRAC International, EARTH University students will gain valuable insight into the type of employment opportunities available to them post-graduation, and will also be able to transfer essential agricultural knowledge and skills to BRAC’s clients and staff. Going forward, BRAC hopes to take lessons from Joseph’s experience, use them to successfully scale up the internship opportunities in 2014, and ideally, cultivate a pipeline of well-educated local talent for BRAC’s Africa country programs. Thanks for leading the way Joseph!

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