VEGA Farmer-to-Farmer SPSP Volunteer of the Year Charlene Nash Featured in The Daily Times
Charlene Nash, VEGA’s Farmer-to-Farmer SPSP Volunteer of the Year was recently featured in The Daily Times for her national recognition on International Volunteer Day. Below is an excerpt of Nash describing her volunteer work overseas in Kenya, Mozambique, Senegal and Zambia.
“She returns to Africa one to two times per year to help villages learn how to breathe life back into soil that has been ravaged by the harsh climate and human abuse,” the article says.
“They’re small-holder farmers, and they do a lot of work, a lot of labor, to eke out a living from this poor soil,” Nash said. “These soils are weathered and worn out, and we need to regenerate them. The villagers have to work pretty hard, but it can be done.”
“During her trips, Nash leverages decades of experience in agricultural and horticultural science to help farmers improve growing conditions in their fields. She teaches them the importance of composting, planting cover crops and how to build up a nutrient-rich, water-retaining layer of humus. She also encourages farmers who benefit from her assistance to sign a pledge to plant a tree a week, a vow she helps them to uphold by purchasing seedlings for them.”
“Without the donated equipment and seeds she and other volunteers provide, Nash said, some of these farmers might not be able to recoup their land’s long-lost growing potential.”
“Their seeds are not sometimes that readily available in high quality, and sometimes, they can’t afford seeds for cover crops,” she said. “You can’t tell a poor person to plant a crop just to feed the soil when they struggle to feed themselves.”
“Justin Finnegan, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator of USAID’s Bureau for Food Security, offered remarks about the successful USAID funded John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer Program and then presented the award to Charlene Nash of Tennessee, who was also invited to join Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), on December 6 at the Tennessee Tuesday Breakfast co-hosted by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN).
“Charlene is incredibly passionate about improving people’s lives and maintaining and improving the earth’s resources,” said NCBA CLUSA Program Manger Megan Wall, who introduced Nash.
Wall recounted her day with Nash in Senegal, during which they stopped on the side of the road to pick up animal bones. Everything is a resource, said Nash, who was training a women’s group to crush up bones to add calcium to the compost they were learning to build.
“We need to change the term sustainable to regenerative,” Nash said in her acceptance speech. “Until the soil is regenerated and healthy, there is nothing to sustain.”
Nash’s dedication to the Farmer-to-Farmer program goes beyond her volunteer work on the ground. In 2012, she started a non-profit, Soil Resources Initiative to raise funds to purchase inputs and training supplies for her to take on farmer-to-farmer assignments. Over the past four years she has raised over $15,000 for seeds and other inputs.
This week’s awards ceremony fell on World Soil Day, observed annually since 2014 to raise awareness of sustainable land resource management and celebrate the contributions of people like Nash.”