Thirteen students from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech recently participated in a unique hands-on research and outreach experience during a 14-day study abroad program in the West African nation of Senegal. 

The purpose of the trip was to engage with, and learn from, another culture by exploring ways to improve agricultural production for smallholder farmers in the region.

Students and faculty explored Senegal’s capital, Dakar, and visited the Saly region, a seaside resort area, as well as Thiès, Senegal’s third largest city, and historic St. Louis in the northern part of the country. Service-learning projects occurred in the Kaolack region in the village of Toubacouta, the hub of Virginia Tech’s sustainable agriculture research and development projects. 

They also got a first-hand taste of the inner workings of international development during the trip. They tested several prototype silage compactors developed by the senior engineering team at Virginia Tech, and got feedback to further develop the compactors and a portable water purifier, as well as deployed a mango dehydrator, and introduced children to group 4-H activities. 

They also participated in several community events by planting a vegetable garden at a local school and helping to build a new community center.

The three-credit course associated with this study abroad program fulfills some of the requirements for the college's international agriculture and life sciences minor.