Factors contributing to the effectiveness of newly posted Peace Corps Volunteers in the Rural Aquaculture Promotion Project in Zambia
Trant, Clay Allen
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The Rural Aquaculture Promotion (RAP) project is a vital development initiative by the Peace Corps in Zambia with the goal of increasing the nutritional and caloric intake of rural Zambian farmers in addition to augmenting income (Peace Corps Zambia rural aquaculture promotion, n.d.). Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) success in achieving the goals of the RAP project is vital, and because PCVs are on site working on projects in the aquaculture assignment area for only 24 months, and as only three generations of PCVs are placed at a given site, it is imperative that they be able to contribute to these projects very promptly after arrival on site. The overriding issue concerning the effectiveness of the Peace Corps development effort is the job performance of the individual PCV which primarily depends on the PCV's ability to transfer learned knowledge and skills to the workplace. Many PCVs are routinely hampered by an inability to achieve significant and continuous contributions to projects within their assignment area. The Peace Corps' fundamental approach to the diffusion of aquaculture in Zambia is centered on the exchange of information between PCVs and rural farmers. Achieving sustainability with the RAP project is essentially based upon the consistency and longevity of this information exchange. PCVs are instructed in very specific technical procedures concerning all aspects of fish farming during pre-service training in order to ensure that they are equipped to diffuse a standardized technical curriculum to project beneficiaries. In addition, volunteers are trained in language and cross-cultural skills, and throughout the pre-service training period are assessed by the training staff for competence in the behavioral areas of motivation, productive competence, and adaptability/social sensitivity. Deficiencies in language and cross-cultural skills, the detrimental psychological effects of culture and role shock, and a lack of agency planning and support were key factors that affected the PCVs' ability to transfer successfully learned skills to the workplace. The lack of language ability was identified as the most substantial factor affecting the Volunteer's on-site job performance. Given the social nature of rural extension efforts, this has serious implications for Volunteer effectiveness.