Volunteers in the Sustainable Agriculture Systems (SAS) project will work with low-income rural farmers to improve the food security and resiliency of their families by supporting farmers to increase overall farm productivity and increase the profitability of their farming operations.
Volunteers will accomplish this by promoting best practices and new techniques for farming and agribusiness within their communities.
Business and Agriculture Advisors will work with farmers to assess their current farming and agribusiness practices, identify opportunities to test and implement new or improved farming practices, develop demonstration and experimental plots, measure results, and analyze lessons learned.
Volunteers will also work together with farmers to improve farmers’ business management skills to increase the potential for small-scale agribusiness.
The Volunteer will conduct workshops / farmer field schools for farmers on a variety of agricultural and agribusiness topics.
Agriculture topics may include : soil conservation, composting, green manures, soil improvement techniques, crop rotation and organic agriculture, adequate use of agrochemicals, specific crop information, integrated pest management, seed selection and, testing of new seed varieties.
Agribusiness topics may include : basic business management, strategic planning, marketing, money management, farm planning, legal status for farmer organizations, post-
harvest management methods, preservation of harvested products, value- added products and product quality among others. Volunteers commonly support any number of the following crops with their farmers : rice, corn, beans, yucca (cassava), plantains, bananas, and coffee among others.
Some Volunteers may also work with agroforestry or nutrition. Volunteers will work mostly with individual farmers, though in some areas they will facilitate the organization of farmer associations or co-
ops in their communities. The communities where Volunteers will be working often, but not always have some support from local technicians from host country agencies and Non-
Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and the Volunteer might have the opportunity to collaborate with these partners.
Competitive candidates will have an interest in agriculture and one or more of the following criteria :
Required Language Skills
Candidates must meet one or more of the language requirements below in order to be considered for this position.
A. Completed 4 years of high school Spanish coursework within the past 8 years
B. Completed minimum 2 semesters of Spanish college level coursework within the past 6 years
C. Native / fluent speaker of Spanish
Candidates who do not meet the language proficiency levels above can take the language placement exams to demonstrate their level of proficiency.
Competitive applicants typically attain a score of 50 on the Spanish College Level Examination Program CLEP exam or a score of Novice High on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL OPI).
Volunteers need to demonstrate an Intermediate level of oral and written proficiency in Spanish for site placement by the end of Pre-Service Training.
SAS communities are generally remote, rustic, and a truly rural living experience. The communities are approximately 50% Latino (Spanish speaking) and 50% indigenous.
Indigenous communities can be more challenging in many ways and Volunteers need to respect and adapt to strict cultural practices and be willing to learn both Spanish and the indigenous language.
SAS communities will likely be remote, and as a result, Volunteers will have limited and infrequent access to resources, such as medical facilities.
In addition, these communities have limited cell service and will not have internet. Volunteers can expect to have internet access one to two times a month when they travel out of their community.
Some communities will not have electricity but solar panels can be purchased in Panama or from a community member or the local store may offer them at an affordable price.
Living in these communities will frequently require Volunteers to hike long distances in a hot and humid climate. Communities are at least one hour from a road, often through very muddy, mountainous terrain with steep hills where walking is the only option.
Volunteers should expect frequent strenuous hikes, long boat rides, and / or long bumpy car rides on unpaved roads to get in and out of their communities.
Volunteers may live in a rural Panamanian-style home made of concrete block and cement floors or in a wood structure with palm-
thatched roof and dirt floors. Volunteers in indigenous areas may live in a wood hut with a dirt floor or in a bamboo, thatch-
roofed hut raised on stilts close to a river. Services such as electricity, running or potable water and sanitation systems may be rudimentary or non-existent.
Peace Corps / Panama examines each community before selection to ensure that basic health and safety criteria are met. Volunteers will be required to live with a host-
family during their first three months of service in their community. After these three months, they may opt to live on their own in pre-
approved local housing that meets Peace Corps / Panama’s housing criteria.
Food and Diet
The Panamanian diet varies according to the region and the ethnic makeup of the population. Most often the diet consists of rice, beans, bananas or plantains, yucca (cassava), and corn.
Rice and beans (kidney beans, lentils, or red beans) is the staple dish. Corn is served in many ways but is usually ground, boiled, or fried.
Sancocho is a traditional dish (somewhere between a soup and a stew) prepared with a variety of vegetables and chicken. Most rural areas have an array of fruits available, including mangoes, papayas, pineapples, avocados, oranges, and guanabanas (soursops), but only in certain seasons.
The availability of garden vegetables, such as tomatoes, sweet peppers, and cucumbers, varies according to the region and the season.
The most common meats are chicken and beef, which are often deep-fried or stewed. Fish is available sporadically in coastal regions and riverside communities.
Some Volunteers are vegetarians, but very few Panamanians follow these diets. Many volunteers start a gardenin their community, and buy food in a provincial capital.
Most have supermarkets where you can buy a wide variety of foods and imported goods.
Internet access in Panama is spreading. All provincial capitals and other large towns have internet cafes. Connection speeds tend to be slow, but the service is reasonably priced and otherwise reliable.
Internet access for Volunteers is available at the Peace Corps / Panama office.
Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Panama : Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety including crime statistics PDF in order to make a well-
informed decision about serving.
Panama is happy to accommodate cross-sector couples. We will identify communities with sufficient work opportunities for both volunteers.
Therefore, your partner can apply and must qualify for :
Sustainable Agriculture Volunteer, or
Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Education Volunteer
During Pre-Service Training, couples will live in separate homes, which will help improve language learning as well as cultural integration.
During their service, they will live together first with a host family and then on their own. Couples will be placed in medium to large communities, to ensure sufficient work is available for both volunteers.
Medical Considerations in Panama
Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the clearance process and other health conditions that are difficult to accommodate in Peace Corps service.