WESTMINSTER -- As boys growing up in the Congo in Africa, Didier Ngoyi-Ngoho and Guy Herve-Moukoko learned about American farming -- the various machines used for planting and harvesting, what chemicals and fertilizers to put on crops to make them grow.
"Your agriculture has always been an example to us," Mr. Ngoyi-Ngoho, 23, said during a tour of two area farms on Friday. "We have corn farms, but not as large as yours. Agriculture in the Congo is not developed. We don't have the machines and we don't use chemicals."
Rather, farming there is strictly traditional. Land is cleared and houses are built by hand. Fields are plowed with hoes by husbands and wives and planted by hand, he said.
And unlike American fields that are replanted every year, the land on the small farms of the Congo is good for only one year.
During the tour, local farmers Ronald Leister and Ed Trempler showed the two exchange students their fields and explained such things as no-till planting and the use of certain grains to feed their farm animals.
The young men were accompanied by Marilyn Mause, central Maryland regional wildlife manager for the Department of Natural Resources, and an official from the Baltimore Zoo. The visitors also surveyed crop damage from deer and Japanese beetles.
The trek into Carroll's farming country was part of a three-week visit to the United States offered by Roots and Shoots, an international youth organization.
Mr. Ngoyi-Ngoho and Mr. Herve-Moukoko, 19, are leaders of Roots and Shoots in the Congo. The program was conceived by naturalist Jane Goodall for youths interested in preserving their country's resources.
"We have wildlife conservation problems in our country," Mr. Herve-Moukoko said. "There's no good policy in our management."
Environmental awareness in the Congo is a fairly new concept, Mr. Ngoyi-Ngoho noted, so the need for basic knowledge and information is great. And that's where these students from Marien Ngouabi University come in. "Our friends are waiting for us to share what we learn here with them," he said. "We will use our information to strengthen our program."
While they are in Baltimore, the two are staying with Catherine Thompson of the Baltimore Zoo's education department. She kept them busy last week at visiting zoos, parks and museums.
"This is an important exchange program," Ms. Thompson said. "It helps us understand conservation from their viewpoint and how difficult it is for them to follow through on some programs.
"Also, what works in one culture may not work for another. So it's up to people like Didier and Guy to take it back to their country and decide what will work."