University of Florida

The Neighborhood Gardener:
A Master Gardener's Mission to Africa

By Karen Stauderman

Master Gardeners are typically called upon to teach in their local communities. However, when an international organization called for volunteers to help rural farmers in Africa, Ken Kilner, a Volusia County Master Gardener, responded.

Based in Washington, D.C., the Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Program is sponsored by National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International. The organization was looking for volunteers to educate rural farmers in Niger, Africa, in how to improve productivity, access new markets, and conserve environmental and natural resources.

After a nationwide plea, Ken was the only volunteer to apply and be selected. His mission is to travel to the remote location and teach 150 village farmers and producer groups to increase food security, increase incomes, stimulate economic growth, and better manage soil and water resource challenges. Ken is a 2010 graduate of the University of Florida's Master Gardener Program in Volusia County and is fluent in French, which is spoken in Niger.

Upon arrival, Ken began an intensive three-week program teaching the benefits of mulching, crop rotation, and safer pest management alternatives in farming the Moringa tree, a vital source of both income and nutrition in Niger.

After a Farmer-to-Farmer assignment, volunteers come back with the kind of in-depth, qualitative understanding of conditions in emerging markets that is impossible to achieve through desk-based research.

Karen Stauderman, the Volusia County Master Gardener Coordinator was initially surprised upon hearing of Kilmer's' mission. "Ken is quiet, soft-spoken, and new to the Master Gardener program," she says. "I am so amazed at the talents and motivation that Master Gardeners will take to educate others. Ken is proof that one Master Gardener can make a difference in the world."


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