by Isabelle Mengesha
RPCV Panama 2018-2020
My name is Isabelle Mengesha, and I was serving in the Peace Corps as a Business Advising Agricultural Volunteer in the Sustainable Agriculture Systems program. I lived in a rural community in the mountains of Panama with a population of 1,000 people, most of whom are subsistence farmers. My role revolved around food security for the community, but I also specialized in coffee and worked with an organized group of about 10 farmers. I facilitated a few pest management seminars and taught goal setting and project planning. I co-facilitated a project to create 7 new rice tanks, which should give farmers larger and more continuous harvests throughout the year). I was also involved in a project to create 5 new eco stoves. In addition, I wrote a grant for the community to buy a coffee roaster. Throughout all this work, which we worked long hours side-by-side to accomplish, I made life-long friends. My community members supported me, took care of me, and made me feel at home and a part of their families. I was so lucky to have met them and above everything else in Panama, the relationships I made are what I will never forget.
I’m happy to report that the grant did get fully funded, and that on the day of my evacuation, I received confirmation that the machine will be delivered and installed when the traveling restrictions are lifted in Panama! I hope to go back to Panama as soon as possible to ensure that the machine is installed and everyone in the group is comfortable using it, and to say a proper goodbye to the people who I cherish so much. We were also just about to close on a new coffee buyer deal, which will double the profits for every farmer, so there are definitely a few things I would still like to wrap up!