Thirty years ago Chuck Chopak earned a bachelor’s degree, but couldn’t see earning a living in biology or sociology, his dual major at Tulane University. He was intrigued, though, by an aquaculture opening in northern Senegal. Figuring it a great way to learn French and fish farming, Chuck joined the Peace Corps for what turned out to be a five-year assignment in a village of 200 people.

The village chief gave him the name Ibrahima Diene, and he went to work building ponds that could be lowered or raised with the season in order to most efficiently raise ceeb u jen, or rice and fish. “In the Peace Corps I realized the decisions we made and solutions we found were the types of things I wanted to be doing,” he said.

“Life was harsh—I used the same bathroom, got sick from the same water, saw kids dying at an early age, and saw the joy that a good harvest brought.” — Chuck Chopak

After earning his doctorate, Chuck went on to lead some of the world’s most important food security programs, including the Washington, D.C.-based Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET). He served long-term postings in Senegal and Zimbabwe and completed numerous assignments in African nations and Haiti. He now leads the DAI team implementing food security projects in Africa and Central Asia.

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