History of the Peace Corps in Togo
The Peace Corps began its work in Togo in 1962, as part of the second wave of countries where the Peace Corps began service. Since that time, more than 2,000 Volunteers have served in Togo. Peace Corps/Togo has a successful history of collaboration and involvement with the Togolese people at all levels. The Volunteers’ efforts build upon counterpart relationships and emphasize low-cost solutions that make maximum use of local resources, which are usually people. Collaboration with local and international private organizations, as well as international development organizations, is an important component of Volunteer project activities.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Togo
Peace Corps/Togo averages 55 trainees per year and fields an average of 110 Volunteers. Volunteers work in all five regions of the country in four programs: natural resource management; community health and AIDS prevention; small business development; and girls’ education and empowerment.
Heavy demographic pressure is straining Togo’s agricultural systems and the ability of the land to regenerate itself.
Traditional farming practices cannot meet the needs of the increasing population, nor do these practices address the problem of soil degradation. Togo’s forests are being depleted, while demand for wood products is increasing. Crop residues, a precious organic fertilizer for tropical soils, are no longer left on the land, but are used as alternative fuels. Volunteers in the natural resource management program work to address these issues and attempt to reverse the trends in the areas of decreasing farm yields, environmental degradation, poor soil fertility, and decreasing forest resources.
In 1995, the safe motherhood and child survival project evolved into the community health and AIDS prevention project. Volunteers in this project assist local-level health personnel and regional offices to promote community health activities. The project’s most important components are child growth monitoring and nutrition education, family planning education, education for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)/ AIDS prevention, and improved dispensary management.
Since 1991, small business development Volunteers have worked with credit unions, women’s informal savings groups, and youth and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to offer business training and consulting to members who wish to improve their business skills. Workshops covering such topics as accounting, finance, marketing, and feasibility studies are offered to groups of tailors, retailers, merchants, market women, and other entrepreneurs. The goal of this project is to improve basic business and entrepreneurial skills, thereby fostering opportunities for growth and job creation in Togo’s small business sector.
Beginning in 1999, Peace Corps/Togo began implementation of the girls’ education and empowerment program. Volunteers work with local schools and institutions, particularly in rural areas, to promote literacy and education among girls. Emphasis is given to encouraging girls to attend and stay in school and to make good choices about their future.
In addition to the four major program areas mentioned above, Volunteers are involved in a variety of secondary activities.
Two activities that many Volunteers participate in are youth summer camps and AIDS Rides. AIDS Ride is a week-long HIV/ AIDS education/training program. During AIDS Ride Week, teams of Volunteers in each of the five regions of Togo ride their bikes to isolated villages and deliver HIV/AIDS training sessions to adults and students. In 2005, 55 Volunteers (five teams of eleven) delivered 73 presentations in 51 villages to over 21,000 people.
Each summer, Volunteers from all programs participate in three weeks of youth camps (one week each for girls, boys and young women who have left school early). These camps include formal classes in life skills such as health and nutrition, HIV/AIDS and gender equity, as well as sports and other games.