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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 project was the Ekoi Atan Ubom/Mbiabong Mbat Rice Demonstration project. Unlike the community farm projects, this one took a lot of attention. The government put the project right in the middle of a piece of land which was claimed by two villages. 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.
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. Ikot Ekpene Division changed hands 3 times in the Civil War. 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.
When Biafra happened, I went to Somalia and worked out of Hargesia on a cooperative market garden. After Ikot Ekpene, I thought it was sort of strange that none of the cooperative members worked on the garden, but the coop had hired people to do the work. After a couple of months, the farm manager got into some dispute with the coop members and ran away with their substantial working capital (ie money) while I was on leave in the US. I was not really surprised that some disaster had struck the project. My question was what do now? Agriculture extension info shows on the local radio station, Join the Small Pox group or another construction volunteer? Then "The Many Mushrooms" pulled into town, I fixed a loose connection and got a job for the rest of my tour.
The Many Mushrooms was a traveling Peace Corp Rock and Roll band, I became their "Roadie", sometimes their "Best Boy Grip". The core of the band was made up of 4 volunteers and a young Somali drummer. They were actually pretty good and took their music seriously. 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. Understand we generally played in the early evenings, outdoors. My job was to make sure the generator worked and helped with amps, microphones and instrument connections. The stage was the packing boxes. After the band's equipment was plugged in, we could only run 2 100 watt light bulbs, 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, but I survived.
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.