International Agriculture Attracts Students

February 6, 2017

Story provided by “Oklahoma Horizon.” For more stories likes this, watch every Thursday at 3:30 PM ET.

Working abroad might be the road less traveled, not to mention difficult and challenging in many ways, but it could also be the road most rewarding. Blane Singletary of “Oklahoma Horizon” introduces us to a world Ag traveler whose unlikely trip to Africa turned into a world of opportunity.

Richard Moore was just like any undergrad in college; trying to figure out exactly what he was going to do in his professional life and meeting with his academic advisor.

“I went in and sat down in his office,” Moore recalls “and we were talking about classes I was going to enroll in. I was wanting to switch to horticulture, we were kind of talking through some of that and he just says, ‘Hey Richard, would you like to go to Sierra Leone?’ And it was just this crazy thought or question to me because I didn’t even know where Sierra Leone was. And just kinda one thing lead to another and then I found myself in 2011, on our way to Sierra Leone.’”

This OSU study abroad trip had these agricultural students working with a local orphanage to install drip irrigation systems and teach African students the basics of agriculture. Despite the hardships that came with it, those two weeks left a big impression on Moore.

“It changed my outlook,“ says Moore. “It changed my perspective on life. And after I came back, I started thinking about it more, talking with my advisor more about it, and then just nine to 10 short months later, I was leading another OSU trip back to Sierra Leone.

That was followed up by a move to Sierra Leone in August 2012, to chase a few business ventures. Unfortunately, those fell through, and as the Ebola outbreak began to pick up steam in 2014, it was clear that Richard and his new native wife, Christiana, wouldn’t be able to stay there. And with his wife’s visa request still being processed, they couldn’t go back to the U.S., either.

“We really explored our options and what we could do and we ended up booking two tickets to Ghana,” says Moore. “I didn’t really have anything to do in Ghana, we didn’t know anyone in Ghana, it was just a safer country that we could travel to. It was just on a whim and a prayer.”

Just days before they were set to depart, the unexpected happened.

“I saw a water4 post that said Matt Hangen, the Director of Implementation, was going to be in Ghana and I had a crazy thought,” Moore recalls. “I should call him and just see if there’s any opportunities or possibilities for me to volunteer or work for water4 in Ghana for a few months while we’re waiting for my wife to get her visa.”

That crazy thought became a long-standing relationship with water4 that continues to this day. Water4 is a non-profit based out of Oklahoma City that comes up with enterprise-based solutions to end the world water crisis.

“What that means is, we’re training local entities, local entrepreneurs, business owners on how to drill wells through training,” explains Moore. “So we’re teaching these enterprises how to drill wells, how to go out into communities and be the change in their own community.

Today, Moore is the implementation manager of water4, overseeing their grassroots programs all over Africa. He and his wife live on a plot of land just outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma. And aside from his main job with water4, they run an Airbnb and sell homemade goods like jelly and jams to make a little extra money.