Friday, December 19, 2014

Happy Holidays from the Guatemala Farmer-to-Farmer team!

Between July and December 2014, the Farmer-to-Farmer program in Guatemala had nine F2F volunteers build technical capacity in food safety, GAP certification, business and organizational development, artificial goat insemination, organic agricultural production, and many other topics. They look forward to what next year's volunteers will bring!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Improving Goat Husbandry Practices in Haiti

This blog post was written by Dan Krull who is currently in Haiti serving as an F2F volunteer in improved goat production. This is Mr. Krull's first F2F assignment.

A typical leash-pastured goat in a small village.
"Haiti is a diverse country with bright agricultural prospects. Many Haitians raise livestock, including goats [...] Goats are a vital source for protein, and as such, they fetch a good price at the market. They are also relatively hardy and can thrive in conditions that would be too stressful for other animals. You would think in the lush tropical landscape that is Haiti, the goats here would be fat and happy. On the contrary, many of them are thin and severely under conditioned. In addition, some are dying, quite suddenly, with little or no warning.

I recently traveled to Haiti to find out why and to implement practices designed to minimize the frequency at which it happens in the future. With the help of F2F Haiti Country Coordinator Benito Jasmin and Haitian organization Makouti Agro Enterprise, we set about visiting numerous communities and doing basic physicals on their goats. Though the health of the goats of each location varied, sometimes considerably, the most glaring clinical symptoms we kept finding were under-conditioning and anemia. 

The most likely cause of such severe anemia is internal parasites. Many goats were also exhibiting an unhealthy external parasite load as well. Of all the parasites that can infect the goat, Haemonchus contortus, or the barber pole worm is the most likely cause due to its propensity to cause severe anemia absent any other signs. For the inquisitively curious, this worm got its common name because its digestive tract spirals the length of its body. When the worm has ingested the blood of the animal in which it resides, its body resembles the spiral you would see on a barbershop pole. 
Dan demonstrating how to locate parasite eggs
under a microscope.
In addition to the anemia that was so prevalent in the goats examined, the hooves of many goats were in bad shape as well. I spent some time teaching why parasites cause anemia and how to look for it. I also demonstrated proper hoof trimming techniques.

Administering drugs to kill the parasites will certainly improve their herd’s immediate health, but this is only the first step in other changes that need to be made. With the immediate success from de-worming the goats, the farmers should be motivated to make changes in their overall management practices that are contributing to the parasite problems. Providing access to clean drinking water, maintaining clean shelters, and adding plants that have natural inhibit parasitic properties are three such actions that are being emphasized.

Change is often accomplished in incremental steps. With the help of the Farmer-to-Farmer program, the Haitian goat farmer will have a prosperous 2015."

Friday, December 12, 2014

Addressing Climate Change in Partners' Farmer-to-Farmer Program

Photo taken by F2F volunteer (Nov. 2014):
Fallen banana trees after a severe wind storm
As the Conference on Climate Change in Lima comes to an end, Secretary John Kerry urged the world to think about the economic impacts of climate change on agriculture. He reports that the changing climate will reduce the production capacity of crops such as rice, maize, or wheat by two percent each decade. (See remarks here). This means millions of farmers around the world may face greater threats of hunger, malnutrition, and food insecurity. However, Kerry notes, “there is still time for us to come together as a global community . . . and every nation has a responsibility to do its part if we’re going to pass this test.

Photo taken by F2F volunteer (Nov. 2014): Flooding in Montecristi
Partners of the Americas’ Farmer-to-Farmer program is taking strides to take this to heart in the Dominican Republic. As a small island, the Dominican Republic is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change. According to the Germanwatch 2014 Climate Risk Index, the Dominican Republic is the fourth most affected country in Latin America by weather events, as well as one of the top ten most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. The Dominican Republic is already experiencing the effects of sea level rise, warmer weather, and more frequent flooding. Another pressing concern is that climate change is negatively affecting the stability of the country’s water supply with disproportionate effects on vulnerable populations. The country’s vulnerability level will continue increasing as climate change brings more floods, extreme storms, landslides, and droughts, along with slower climate change effects such as a rise in sea level, and a reduction in water quality and quantity.

Photo taken by F2F volunteer (Nov. 2014): Flooding in Montecristi
The Farmer-to-Farmer program normally focuses on improving food security through value chains and agricultural processing, production, and marketing. In the Dominican Republic, Partners’ F2F program has adapted to local needs to focus on building the capacity of farmers in the Yaque del Norte region in areas such as water resource management, institutional capacity building, risk-reduction measures, and sustainable climate-smart agricultural technologies. Since May 2014, Partners has sent 20 F2F volunteers to the Dominican Republic who have provided training in areas such as wastewater management, soil and agroforestry conservation, disaster risk management, and environmental education curriculum development. Through F2F and in collaboration with in-country partners, Partners is helping to raise awareness on the impacts of climate change and to promote the incorporation of adaptation and mitigation strategies among farmers, associations, and the local community.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Alternative Chicken Feed Systems in Haiti

Worm box used to raise black soldier
fly larva and worms
Let’s say you wanted to help rural farmers improve their food security by raising chickens and producing eggs, but the high cost of chicken feed would create dependency on outside vendors and limits profits. What if you could reduce feed cost, improve the chickens’ diet, and support locally sustainable systems? Partners' Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer, Patryk Battle, spent two weeks in Haiti in September to demonstrate how plant waste, grazing, raising black soldier fly larva, and vermiculture could do just this.

Patryk worked with Royal Palm, a local organization that has a pilot demonstration plot and egg production site in Haiti. Due to the high cost of chicken feed, Royal Palm has sought technical assistance in identifying alternative chicken feed systems. These alternative chicken feed systems could not only enable farmers to generate more income, but also provide an environmentally sustainable solution to reduce costs. In Haiti, some available sources of alternative chicken feed include the black soldier fly and vermiculture, as well as vegetative crop waste. 

During his assignment, Patryk evaluated these local resources and trained over 100 individuals through hands-on demonstrations on the production of soldier fly larva, worm composting, and compost tea. These methods have been incorporated into Royal Palm's demonstration farm and serve as a model  system that uses local materials to produce alternative chicken feed while also increasing soil fertility, reducing feeding costs, and improving bird health and egg quality. On this system, Patryk states, "The chicken feed, instead of being an end in itself, can form part of what will become a dynamic and productive farming system. . . This is the only real solution to sustainably producing chicken feed in Haiti."

Friday, December 5, 2014

Today is International Volunteer Day!

International Volunteer Day, started in 1985 by the United Nations, is an opportunity to celebrate all those who volunteer their time to make a difference in the world. Partners' Farmer-to-Farmer Program would like to thank all the excellent volunteers who have traveled to Latin America and the Caribbean to work with their counterparts to address agricultural and environmental issues. Changes and innovations have been made in a wide variety of technical areas, sales and income have increased, and natural resource management has improved. Giving your time has made a difference in the hemisphere! And we thank you.

If you are interested in volunteering with the Farmer-to-Farmer Program, you can see open assignments here:!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Enjoy a video from F2F volunteer Wayne Burleson's assignment

A big thank you to Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer, Wayne Burleson, for putting together this video on his recent assignment to teach organic input production in Guatemala! Enjoy!      

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving from Partners' F2F Team!

Thanksgiving is traditionally a day to give thanks for the yearly harvest. Because of the hard work and dedication of our Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers and in-country staff and partners, rural farmers throughout Latin America are thankful for being able to take strides towards a higher quality and more productive harvest.

The staff at Partners of the Americas would also like to extend its gratitude to its F2F volunteers, funders, and the Partners network for helping to change the lives of others. The Farmer-to-Farmer program is crucial for providing people-to-people exchanges and promoting sustainable economic growth and development. Whether our volunteers work with dairy farmers in Nicaragua, beekeepers in Haiti, mushroom exporters in Guatemala, or climate change NGOs in the DR, they all play a key role in helping us improve the lives and food security of others.

Partners' HQ Farmer-to-Farmer Team
From left, Courtney Dunham, Peggy Carlson (Director),
Adriana Robertson, and Andi Sullivan