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Revision as of 16:14, 27 March 2008
Warning: Default sort key "Collman,Chris" overrides earlier default sort key "Collman, Chris".
I served in Nigeria, extended my tour. Ikot Ekpene and I were a good fit. I was a community project facilitator. The main focus was creating cooperative community oil palm farms. The government's goal was to change land tenure system. My goal was to assist villages with the evaluation and adaptation of new ideas to an existing system. There was 1 community farm when I got there and 12 when I left. I also helped build a few bridges, worked with the Raffia Cooperative for a bit (asked for another PCV) and had a couple of other projects. The people of Ikot Ekpene told me in a visit in 1972, that my most trouble some project was my best project. That was and is the Ekoi Atan Ubom/Mbiabong Mbat Rice Demonstration project. Unlike the community farm projects, this one took a lot of attention. It was 30 acres when I was assigned (late 1966) to assist the Ministry of Agriculture with community relations aspects and about 100 acres when I left. The government put the project right in the middle of a piece of land which was claimed by two villages. I had trained counterparts in my second year to work with the community farms. My extention goal was to work with villages and engineers in determining a model for supplying utilities to a village. Biafra happened and I could not extend my tour. In my visit in 1972, 8 of 12 community farms were still operating without any government support and the the Rice project was over 700 acres and had served as a model for another 1000 acres of rice. Ikot Ekpene Division changed hands 3 times in the Civil War.
When Biafra happened, I went to Somalia and worked out of Hargesia on a large cooperative market garden. After Ikot Ekpene, I thought it was sort of strange that none of the members worked on the garden. When the farm manager ran away with the money, I became the roadie for the "Many Mushrooms" when they pulled into Hargesia to start their Grand Tour. This was a traveling Peace Corp Rock and Roll band, which was actually pretty good. Also one of the volunteers could fluently croon passionate Somali love songs that the band had learned from the always popular Radio Hargesia Players. It was standing room only at most of the towns we played in. Well understand we generally played in the early evenings, outdoors. My job was to make sure the generator worked, the stage was the packing boxes. After the electric amps we could only run 2 100 watt lightbulbs, period. We ended up in Mog, played at nightclubs and donated the money the band earned to several community development projects. Somalia was a tough place for most volunteers. I was certainly not a typical volunteer in Somalia.
In under 4 years of service, I experienced the best and the most difficult assignments Peace Corps had to offer. It changed my life and I would like to think I impacted others as well.