|Seed Bank Silos
In 2005, Peace Corps volunteers Justin Mog and Amanda Fuller were dispatched to an impoverished community in rural Paraguay, where they hoped to help curb farmers' overreliance on cotton, a pesticide-heavy, soil-degrading cash crop. The volunteers listened to the locals: With prices plummeting, farmers were willing to try something new. “But their first question was, ‘Where can I get affordable seed?'” says Mog. The two launched a seed bank, which loans tree, vegetable, and alternative crop seeds to Paraguayans. After harvest, farmers return 110 percent of the amount of seed borrowed.
Worldwide, some 8,000 Americans are now volunteering in the tiny independent agency John F. Kennedy set up in 1961 to promote “world peace and human progress.” While some criticize the Peace Corps as just another institutionalized means for exporting American culture, many Peace Corps projects, like the Paraguayan seed bank, are uniquely participatory.