Discover Your Island

University Student Uses Classroom Education to Help Others in West Africa

July 01, 2015

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Assisting West African villagers develop a more sustainably- managed fishery not only helped recent master’s graduate Geoffrey Kibler learn about himself, it also helped him learn about the role he can play in resolving struggles across the globe.

Kibler returned from West Africa in November 2014 after 27 months spent as a Peace Corps Environmental/Agricultural Volunteer in The Gambia as part of the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Master’s International (MI) program. With the MI program, a student is able to not only gain traditional classroom education to earn a master’s degree, but also take that education to the next level by helping others around the world.

Kibler assisted with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from November 2012 to November 2014 and is the first graduate of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s MI program.

“I had the opportunity to live, learn, and teach in the beautiful West African country known as The Republic of The Gambia,” said Kibler. “Throughout my two years of service, I was immersed in a diverse and intimate culture that gave me the opportunity to discover myself and the effects of globalization on this little place in Africa.”

The program’s second student, Grayce Palmer, served with the Community Education and Conservation Project from January 2012 to October 2014 in Bahia Honda, Panama, a village of 200 people that is located on an island near the Costa Rican border. She will graduate with her master’s degree in Fisheries and Mariculture in August 2015.

“The MI program is unique in that it offers a student a chance to combine their graduate education goal with their passion for volunteer service abroad,” said Dr. John Scarpa, Associate Professor of Aquaculture. “Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is one of only four universities in Texas that has an MI program. Our program is solely focused on fisheries and mariculture.”

The Gambia is the smallest mainland country in Africa and one of the poorest countries in the world.  The Republic of the Gambia is vulnerable to a number of food security-related problems that stem from cash crops dependence, climate change, food price volatility, and rapid population growth.

Kibler’s Peace Corps experience included working with local and international organizations to ensure a more sustainably-managed fishery, which can ease food security issues by making it more certain that fish will be available for the long term.

Kibler also had the chance to be heavily involved in the development of The Gambia’s first Multispecies Co-Management Plan and preliminary research that will lead to The Gambia’s First Artisanal Fishery Eco Labeled fish product. During his time in The Gambia, Kibler’s primary work was as an Agrioforestry Technical Trainer. He also successfully managed multiple fisheries and livelihood enhancement projects that included funding from USAID, West African Food Security Partnership (WAFSP), the British High Commission, the Taiwanese Technical Mission, and the Global Environment Fund (GEF).

Some of these projects included:

  •  a Seed Distribution project that helped to increase the amount of improved field crop varieties
  • a Green Light Gardening and Training Center that introduced reduced labor gardening techniques to individuals affected by HIV/AIDS
  • a Turtle Hatchery in which he created a working hatchery that has attracted tourists, created benefits for locals, and helps to educate youth.

Kibler received his master’s degree in spring 2015. In the future, he plans to work with at-risk youth on urban farming and aquaponics that will provide vocational skills such as carpentry, growing fresh produce, and improving environmental health. His immediate plan is to secure employment as a fishery or field biologist in Texas, Alaska, or Florida.  Kibler also plans to pursue a Ph.D.