by SARA MARSHALL/Photo Editor
Many spend their summer vacations by the pool or traveling to see family.
But Ron Presley, Professor of agriculture at South Plains College, chose to spend his summer contributing to the education of agriculture students in a developing nation. On July 24, Presley stepped off an international flight to Nigeria, Africa, determined to plant seeds in the hearts and minds of Nigerian students.
“My first impression of Nigeria was that I was in a totally different culture, a totally different world,” Presley said. “The air was heavy with charcoal and eucalyptus, and I had this overwhelming moment when I realized I was actually in Nigeria; that I couldn’t go home.”
In March, the United States Agency for International Development’s Farmer-to-Farmer program recruited Presley to speak to six colleges and polytechnic institutions around Nigeria. Presley has taught many Nigerian foreign exchanges students in his classes at SPC, so he understood how to teach in a way they would understand.
“I have an immense respect for the Nigerian students I’ve had in class before,” Presley said. “They’re such wonderful people.”
While attending the educational workshops at each college, Presley talked to students about the many career opportunities in the agriculture field. He spoke to them of the differences between the American agriculture industry and the Nigerian agriculture industry.
“We talked about certain agriculture problems, and they asked many questions,” Presley said. “Some I could answer, some I couldn’t. I mainly talked to them about what wonderful opportunities would be open to them in the field.”
Toward the end of the 20-day Farmer-to-Farmer program, Presley traveled to a remote village, which became one of the most memorable moments of his trip.
“People were just going about their everyday lives, and then kids were running after us, cheering and waving at me,” Presley said. “When we got to the compound where I stayed the night, people came up to the gates to see me sitting there, and they would look and wave. So everyone who lived in the village knew I was there. I just felt a little exposed, but I was assured I was safe.”
After visiting the village, Presley traveled to a Nigerian high school, where he was able to talk more about the opportunities in agriculture to a younger audience. He met with more than 250 students in a large 115°F room with no lights, so the windows and doors were all open. Students volunteered during their summer break to attend the Farmer-to-Farmer program. “After I was finished, they sang to me,” Presley said. “Though I didn’t understand the language, the students truly touched my heart.”
Presley someday hopes to go back to Nigeria, fulfilling his bucket list goals of traveling the world.
“I’ve always dreamed of traveling,” Presley said. “Getting to go to Africa was such a wonderful experience and opportunity.”