Friday, August 11, 2017

Micro-Watershed Restoration Programs in the Dominican Republic's Yaque del Norte River

By F2F Volunteer Peter Phillips

Micro-watershed that feeds into the Yaque del Norte River system

During June 2017, I spent two weeks in the Dominican Republic with the goal of training Dominican colleagues on themes related to water conservation and water quality. The majority of my assignment was focalized in the Arroyo Gurabo micro-watershed of the Yaque del Norte River in and near the city of Santiago in the Cibao Valley. My host agency was a local NGO, Asociación para el Desarrollo Integral (APEDI), and my faithful guide was Partners of the Americas’ Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) field officer, José Alejandro Almodóvar Gómez.

The Yaque del Norte is the longest river on the island of Hispaniola. Extending for more than 200 km, the river originates in the high mountains of the Cordillera Central of the Dominican Republic and discharges in the northwest of the country not far from Haitian border. Santiago is the second largest city in the country and is located at the midpoint along the Yaque del Norte. In 2004, with support from a Fulbright Scholar program grant, I established a series of water quality sampling stations along the entire length of the Yaque del Norte River and so I was fortunate to have had prior experience in the region and of having established a record of baseline data. The Arroyo Gurabo stream is a major tributary originating in the Cordillera Septentrional, a mountain chain that forms the northern boundary of the Cibao Valley. The stream is formed by a series of springs at about 800 meters in elevation, and eventually discharges into the Yaque del Norte near downtown Santiago.

These springs all receive some sort of protection. At a minimum, the periphery of each is fenced off to protect them from livestock intrusion, at best, they are located in a heavily forested area, but that’s rare in this densely populated region. Descending from the mountains into the city, the stream edge, or the riparian zone, tends to be packed in with marginal communities of very poor residents who have, over time, settled here for lack of a better option. This is a common pattern along most streams running through Santiago.

Generally, residents must discharge their untreated wastewater into the stream. The stream also serves as a garbage dump as evidenced by the accumulation of solid waste ranging from plastics, to paper, to assorted construction debris. During flood events, which are not uncommon, the stream banks are undermined, destroying structures that have been built up over time. The loss of natural vegetation to absorb high water episodes is an endless cycle of stream bed widening that can seem hopeless to control.

However, encouraging signs are evident in unexpected moments and places. For one, I was highly impressed by measures already taken to protect all the spring sources of the Arroyo Gurabo. This was thanks to the consistent efforts by my APEDI colleagues, the managers and trainers of this particular project. Also, I was heartened to observe in my first visit to a marginal community the rapport with which APEDI colleagues interacted with community leaders and the level of understanding that these local leaders had regarding the challenges their communities faced being perched on the edge of the Arroyo Gurabo. In my second week, I was surprised by a visit to a marginal community directly on the banks of the Yaque del Norte that also happened to be my downtown Santiago sampling station from my 2004 research. This community has benefitted from USAID funding and using their own labor had constructed a wastewater collection system for the area. Now, untreated wastewater no longer enters the river, the neighborhood has a hygienic and tidy appearance, undoubtedly public health has improved and there was a very discernible lack of accumulated solid waste throughout the community alleyways and along the riverbank. This community certainly serves as an example to achieve in all Santiago’s marginal communities.

My culminating experience was a full day of dialogue and a water quality workshop well attended by APEDI colleagues and local community leaders from the upper Arroyo Gurabo watershed. I feel that my major contribution was to introduce the idea that inhabitants of the region should expand their vision of preserving water quality and water quantity to satisfy needs of human inhabitants and begin to consider the needs of the entire aquatic ecosystem.


Often, we think of the health of the environment by observing the terrestrial vegetation only and ignoring what’s in the water, what’s below the surface. Perhaps this is because it’s harder to see life in the water than on the land. But if we are good stewards of the land and the water, we will not only have a safe and reliable water supply, but we will have excellent conditions to sustain aquatic plants and animals; animals such as fish, amphibians, and all sorts of invertebrates that are important in the aquatic food web. These two aspects, satisfying human needs for clean fresh water and satisfying the minimum needs of aquatic organisms, are interdependent. One depends on the other. To accomplish this, I suggested that actions be taken to engage children in the activity of monitoring Arroyo Gurabo stream health. This could be accomplished by incorporating stream studies into school curriculum. Take the kids out to the stream and let them have fun. They’ll begin to appreciate their water source in all its aspects and likely train their families to think and take action similarly.


It was a great experience being in the Dominican Republic again after a 12 year absence and I look forward to the possibility of becoming more engaged with the recovery and sustainable management of the Arroyo Gurabo into the future.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Conmemoración del Día Internacional de los Pueblos Indígenas

 Por: Andrés Varona
Coordinador, Programas Agrícolas y Seguridad Alimentaria, Partners of the Americas

Ayer, 8 de Agosto, alrededor del mundo se celebró el Día Internacional de los Pueblos Indígenas. Esta fecha conmemora el día en que la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas (ONU) aprobó la Declaración de los Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas. Desde su incepción en 2007, la declaración ha sido marco universal de normas mínimas para la supervivencia, la dignidad y el bienestar de los pueblos indígenas de planeta. La  aplicación de esta declaración ha alcanzado resultados contundentes para cerrar la brecha entre el reconocimiento formal de los pueblos indígenas y el ejercicio de sus derechos en la práctica, especialmente  con respecto a sus esfuerzos para combatir la exclusión y  la pobreza sistemática de estas comunidades.  Además de la ONU, esta fecha (y el hito que representa) también es conmemorada por diversas agencias federales en Estados Unidos, incluyendo USAID y sus diversas misiones en el exterior. Considerando la importancia de esta declaración, USAID reitera el rol estratégico que los pueblos indígenas ejercen como socios para el desarrollo sostenible y la diversidad cultural de los países donde focaliza su trabajo.

Quetzaltenango, Guatemala: Cooperativas de Mujeres Mayas participan en un taller de manejo integral de plagas (MIP) orientado por Leah Tewksbury, voluntaria del programa F2F.

A través de sus más de 50 años de historia, Partners of the Americas ha trabajado fuertemente para conectar, servir and cambiar vidas en diversas comunidades, incluyendo el mantra de pueblos indígenas que constituye nuestro hemisferio. Con respecto al programa de Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F), iniciativa financiada por USAID, Partners continua implementando numerosos proyectos que avanzan las cadenas de valor de estas comunidades. En el ciclo actual (2013 -2018) del programa F2F, Partners ha mandado a cientos de especialistas agropecuarios estadunidenses para empoderar a estos grupos con el conocimiento, capacidades y herramientas para generar y fortalecer sus propias activadades agrícolas e, consecuentemente, su desarrollo socioeconómico y seguridad alimentaria. En Guatemala, por ejemplo, docenas de voluntarios de F2F han apoyado a cooperativas de mujeres indígenas en diversas áreas de producción orgánica, manejo integrado de plagas (MIP), procesamiento como también mercadeo y branding de productos agrícolas (ej. champiñones, vegetales, frutas). En Colombia, la asistencia de voluntarios F2F está ayudado a transformar quínoa producida por la comunidad Páez en Cauca y comercializandola a los estantes de los supermercados de Whole Foods Market en Estados Unidos. Mientras que en Arajuno y Chuya Yaku, localidades de la Amazonia Ecuatoriana, el apoyo de estos especialistas está fortaleciendo la conservación de los suelos y la producción de chocolate orgánico de estas comunidades quechuas.


Chuya Yaku, Ecuador: Miembros de la Comunidad participan en un entrenamiento sobre producción de chocolate organico.  

Para nosotros en Partners of the Americas es un honor poder trabajar en colaboración mutua con estas diversas comunidades para ser socios de su desarrollo. En los meses y años que vienen, esperamos poder seguir conectando, sirviendo y cambiando vidas en las pueblos indígenas de las Americas y el mundo.  

¡Feliz Día Internacional de los Pueblos Indígenas!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Strengthening rural livelihoods in Guatemala, one avocado at a time

Source: www.frutesa.com
Anyone that has ever dipped a corn chip in guacamole knows just how delicious an avocado can be. Aside of their great taste and rich texture, avocados are jam-packed with vitamins, nutrients and healthy monounsaturated fats. While there are many types of avocados (e.g. Zutano, Choquetee, Hall) that are grown world-wide, most of the avocados consumed in the United States are of the Hass variety. The preference for this variety is due to the fact that Hass avocados can be grown year-around, have a longer shelf life, and contain a nutty flavor that U.S consumers love. In fact, Americans love Hass avocados so much that in 2012 alone they consumed over 810,000 metric tons of them. This volume is roughly three times more of what the United States is able to produce internally, most of which concentrated in the states of California and Florida. Since domestic demand far surpasses domestic production, the U.S must import more than 570,000 metric tons of Hass avocados to satisfy its domestic consumption. As such, much of the Hass avocados consumed in the United States are brought in from Latin American and the Caribbean, mainly from Mexico, Peru, and Chile.


Given the current size of the Hass avocado market in the United States and its future potential for growth, Partners of the Americas’ Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program is actively looking at ways that we can untapped the economic and human capital potential that avocados hold for rural enterprises in Latin America and the Caribbean. As part of our Horticulture Project in Guatemala, we are partnering up with our local host Frutas Tropicales de Guatemala S.A (FRUTESA), in order to support its efforts of commercializing Guatemalan avocados to global markets. In the next coming months, we will be sending a series of Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers to help.

FRUTESA farmers and technicians improve their knowledge and technical skills for producing and harvesting Hass avocados. As part of this work, the volunteer(s) will also lead a series of lectures and technical trainings related to strengthening the quality, safety and phytosanitary standards established by the European and U.S market. Their work will also include various interactive workshops on how to properly clean, sort, package, and transport Hass avocados bound for international markets.

We hope that with F2F support, FRUTESA will have the capacity to keep scaling its avocado export operations and, in turn, support income-generating and skill-building opportunities for the small and medium-sized farms that linked to their growing value chain. We will be sure to keep our readers updated as these efforts in Guatemala take root.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Graphic Design For Quinoa-based Beauty Products in Colombia

Written by Melissa Delzio, Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer in Colombia

I am visiting Cali, Colombia on assignment with Partners of the Americas’ USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program. Partners pairs American volunteers (typically farmers) with producers, farmers cooperatives, agricultural universities, in developing regions of the Americas for a cultural and professional knowledge exchange. The company I am working with, Zen Naturals, has previously hosted technical and agricultural volunteers that have helped the start-up train Indigenous farmers from the Paez tribe to harvest ingredients that become the foundations of their products. Currently, Zen Naturals has developed a line a skin care products called Zue Beauty. This product line includes quinoa-based facial scrubs, toners and creams, but the mission of the company is much greater than the natural product they manufacture.

The Paez tribes live in a remote mountain region of the Cauca Department. As farmers, they have been harvesting coca leaves (the basis of cocaine) for centuries and make it into a mildly stimulating tea. But for the past decades, they have been forced to contend with the presence of the FARC rebel force in addition to the drug traffickers and cocaine refineries invading their region. Before long, drug traffickers took control of the coca production, seducing the impoverished communities who were surviving on subsistence agriculture.

My role as a graphic designer on assignment in Colombia is to work with Zen Naturals to help them with the design, branding and social media strategy of their Zue Beauty product line. In the coming weeks, this brand will hit the shelves of Whole Foods’ markets across Mid-Atlantic region in the United States.This is a big deal for this small, Colombian beauty and skincare start-up. If Zue products sell well in the sample market, they will sell the products nationwide. I arrive in Colombia eager to offer my design support, and to learn about Colombian history, culture, food and dance.

The Zue Crew
Zen Natural founder, Gabriel Maya, picks me up from my hotel on my first day in Cali. Since the volunteer assignment is only two weeks long, we head straight to the office to meet the team. The office is located in a seemingly residential neighborhood of Cali, relaxed with tree-lined streets. I am joined by another Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer, Nicole Opie who is going to be working with the Zen Naturals team on their website search engine optimization strategy. For the first day we absorb all we can about the Zue product line and make a plan for the next few weeks of work.


For a start-up, Zue already was way ahead of the game as far as design and branding. They had a professional logo with basic logo guidelines. They had package designs for all their products, printed marketing materials and a basic website. They had an in-house team of two designers (Juan and Sebastián) with strong design and illustration skills. From this strong foundation, we were able to determine what was missing and what needed work. I identified that the website and strategy for social media were the areas which needed the most improvement. The website was successful at telling the story of Zue, and the products and farmers, but lacked a strong home page. The website was inconsistent design-wise with the print marketing materials and the “Give Back” interface needed to be re-designed.

The Zue Brand
My first step was to tackle the “Give Back” section of the website, which needed to be a place where customers who purchased a beauty product would go to enter a code from the packaging. Upon entering the code, the customer would then be able to choose between an animal, environmental or societal cause to have a portion of proceeds benefit. The causes functioned like campaigns, each with tiered goals based on a point system. Within a given period of time, points accumulated as customers entered the codes and when a project reached its goal, the team at Zen Naturals would give back accordingly. This was a rather complicated interface that needed to communicate the success of projects as well as projects in progress. I recommended they use the term “Zue-Gooder” to describe customers who engaged with the brand at this level. And the term could be used as a call to action, “Become a Zue-Gooder!”

Using existing illustration assets, colors, fonts, and photography, I re-designed the interface for the Give Back section showing how the user progressed through the experience with each frame. The process was very collaborative. I showed design comps early on to the team and we walked through revisions and feedback. The team was mostly bilingual, but to make sure everyone was on the same page, Gabriel would pause to translate. I would work from the hotel, but take an Uber into the office every day or so to check in and review work. By Friday of the first week, I had completed the Give Back section and was able to turn over the design files to the internal team so they could begin development.

The Home Page
After completing the “Give Back” section of the website, I focused my attention on the home page. The current home page featured an outdated marquee and minimal information about the product. We decided that the products needed to be front and center and that the farmer story also needed to be told on the home page. I re-designed the home page to re-order the information, provide emphasis on the product, and offered up some light copywriting to give a general sense for what the length, content and style should be. The design style of the Give Back and Home pages were drafted off of some existing elements from the original design as well as illustration and style elements from an existing brochure. My recommendation to Zen Naturals was that all their design work tie together in order to make it more consistent. To that end, as I worked I began to compile a document of brand assets and specs that would guide all future design work.

                                      

The Whole Plan
We kicked off week two with a brainstorming session about the Whole Foods campaign roll out. Zen Naturals had booked a marketing company to represent the Zue Beauty brand at a table in the store, hand out samples and sing the praises of Zue Beauty products to potential customers. We talked through what the goals were of that engagement and what actions we wanted customers to take (e.g. sign up for Zue’s email list). We discussed what visuals best represent the company. The samples were to be handed out in a small, decorative cloth bag and I was tasked with designing a brochure to be inserted. We decided that the brochure should align closely in design and content to the newly designed home page and focus on the farmer story as well as give exact details on how the Give Back program works. I was able to utilize existing fonts and textures for the design of the 4-panel promotional roll fold piece. The designer from Zen Naturals showed me paper samples of sugar cane paper, widely available in Colombia and we decided that would be a great choice for the brochure

One of the missing pieces from the existing brand story was that the designs were lacking a Colombian feel. While the company was featuring Colombian farmers, the fact that Zen Naturals was a Colombian company and that South America is where all the ingredients originated was lost. Americans crave tropical products and I suggested that they develop an additional component that gives the brand a more tropical feel. I provided several examples of tropical plant illustrations that I thought could be useful and Sebastián, the talented in house illustrator set to work on working up new assets. To support this messaging, I designed a “stamp” graphic to be used on the home page and in the brochure. Featuring a parrot, the words South America and the colors of the Colombia flag, the stamp gave the designs a proper identifier as to the product’s origin. We encouraged the staff to be proud of the Colombian roots and make sure that future design work represents the product’s tropical ingredients.

Uniquely Zue
Upon completing the website re-design and brochure project for Zue Beauty, I moved on to social media templates and compiling a final brand guidelines document for future design work. Social media was an area I thought could use the most improvement and Nicole and I felt the brand needed to move away from generic lifestyle, feel-good posts that had nothing to with the brand to more targeted images/content that related directly to one of the core brand values. We created a litmus test for content. Does it celebrate women? Does it relate to the product? Does it talk about Cycle of Zue? Does it celebrate Colombia? Does it profile a customer? Does it reflect a core value? If not, it should not be a part of your social content. When developing social content, Zue should choose a theme, a content type (profile, product, lifestyle, etc) and an action. Nicole and I offered examples for how to engage with an audience including call for audience content and customer profiles. I came up with the hashtag #uniquelyzue and gave example for how that tag can be used to highlight customers and showcase lifestyle. We discussed the difference between evergreen (ongoing campaigns) vs promotional campaigns that are short term and encouraged the team to develop an editorial calendar for social and blog content. I provided many visual examples of successful social campaigns in the US from Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign to REI’s “Force of Nature” and called out what was successful about each. Finally I designed a few Instagram graphic examples to be used as a template for future content.

By Friday of the last week of our Colombian trip, I presented the final brand guidelines document to the team, and packaged up all the assets to share back with the designers. I believe the team is well positioned to have a successful product launch in the United States. While they have a very talented design team, I recommend that they work with a copywriter in the States to help them with writing their social content. Advertising and engaging on social media is tricky and I believe it is too hard to do successfully without living within the culture. I look forward to seeing how Zue Beauty evolves and hope to find their products on the shelves of my Whole Foods soon.




Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Improving Soil management & Crop Diversification through Windbreaks

By F2F Volunteer Harry Greene

My name is Harry Greene, I live in Burlington, Vermont, and I am the co-founder of and head of farm development for Propagate Ventures. We are an investment management firm that links financial capital with agroforestry and multi-species agriculture. My role at Propagate involves creating replicable economic models for polyculture (biodiverse) agroforestry systems. In plain English: I design organic orchards that grow more than one type of fruit; I work with everything from building the soil, to planting the trees, to forecasting management requirements over a 10-year time horizon. I also work as part of team that manages a 245-acre organic farm in Shelburne, Vermont, where I run a chestnut-centric tree nursery and agroforestry consultancy called 100 Years of Sun, which is the nursery and installation arm of Propagate Ventures.

In February of 2017, Partners of the Americas’ Farmer to Farmer (F2F) program contacted me with the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic to develop a process for establishing windbreaks on banana plantations. The goal of my trip to the Dominican Republic was to develop an economically-viable windbreak installation procedure, and gain a better understanding of tropical agroforestry systems.

Banelino, Bananos Ecológicos de la Línea Noreste, is an association of banana farmers in the Dominican Republic.  Since 1996, they have grown into a network of 334 member farms, 85% of which are certified organic. Their farmers are experiencing the effects of climate change first-hand. Strong, dry winds are damaging banana plants, and drastically reducing farm income. The planting of windbreaks –also known as shelterbelts, “barreras vivas” in Spanish, or simply rows of trees that are stronger than bananas– has thus far been unsuccessful. Farmers do not see non-fruiting species as contributing sufficient benefit as to outweigh the financial and temporal costs of having to deal with an additional feature on their landscape.

In order to shift the entrenched collective mindset that is a banana monoculture, I recommended that Banelino communicate the value of reduced wind-speeds in terms of dollars in lost yield, and simultaneously re-frame the planting of windbreaks as “growing additional tree crops.” The effectiveness of a windbreak is determined by its height and density, but the probability of farmers planting rows of additional species is dependent on cultural and financial inertia. Consequently, our windbreaks must manifest themselves in lime and avocado trees. Distribution channels for organic fruit are generally well established in the Dominican Republic, and adding a crop to the roster is far from unreasonable. The technical directors, extension agents, and farmers of Banelino were all in tune with this idea.


In addition to being multi-functional, windbreaks must also be profitable. We often focus too much on the revenue of an enterprise and not enough on its costs. The next step for Banelino is to map out the pro-forma income statements of fruiting windbreaks over ten years. If we work in good financial planning, the process of diversifying farm income by way of bio-diversifying farms will become self-perpetuating. These lime and avocado trees are given as possible species, because farmers are already growing these crops. However, in order to find the intersection between financial and physical feasibility, Banelino should also conduct an economic analysis of crops such as cacao, moringa, and dwarf coco palm. This process is multi-disciplinary and will require a diverse team of agronomy technicians, producers, and fruit exporters to make these windbreaks happen. Banelino is a very cohesive network, and I am confident that they will do good work.

 On a more personal note, this experience was absolutely phenomenal. For me, life doesn’t get much better than combining agroforestry and Latin America. Seeing 20 farms in various parts of the Dominican Republic, and coming to understand tropical agroforestry systems has reaffirmed that exchanging stories, practices, and ideas is indispensable. Trees grow much faster in the tropics than they do in cold climates. In Vermont, even if one has a base in ecology, the forest is quieter than it is in the tropics, and it moves more slowly. In The Dominican Republic, I could (figuratively) see the trees growing, and ecological succession became as clear as day. Epiphanies sprung up left and right in regard to agroforestry and organic food production. Biodiversity as a concept grew much deeper roots. I see a very clear correlation between human health and the quantity of surrounding biomass. With the growth of the forest comes human prosperity. Plant the trees.

 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Bio-digesters in Wawashang

F2F Volunteer Vance Haugen leading a interactive
lecture on bio-digester design at the Wawashang School
From April 16 to May 1, two Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) volunteers traveled on assignment to Wawashang, a remote community in the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. This assignment included the participation of Vance Haugen (a University of Wisconsin Extension professor specializing in biogas production) as well as James Rhode (Director of the 4-H Adventure Project in Crawford County, Wisconsin). Their dual assignment was part of Farmer-to-Farmer’s “Women & Youth in Agriculture” project and was done in partnership with local host FADCANIC (Fundación para la Autonomía y el Desarrollo de la Costa).

Mr. Haugen and Mr. Rohde’s assignment was centered on the implementation of bio-digesters systems for FADCANIC’s Wawashang School. Due to the school’s remote location, the administrators are actively trying to strengthen the institution’s self-sufficiency by generating all the food, energy (e.g. biogas), and agricultural inputs (e.g. fertilizers) it needs to function properly. The rural school currently consists of student dormitories, teacher quarters, classrooms, an administration building, a clinic, a woodworking shop, a set of solar panels, several plant nurseries, as well as a coconut, corn and cacao processing facility. The school also has in place a farm, where goats, pigs, chickens, horses and cows are raised. Currently, these set of farm animals produce significant amounts of manure, much of which is no being utilized. As such, the school requested two F2F volunteers that could assist them in implementing low-cost bio-digester systems that can harness the biogas and organic fertilizer produced from manure. Mr. Haugen and Mr. Rohde were the perfect team for this task.

As part of their assignment in Wawashang, the duo of volunteers conducted a series of lectures and hands-on trainings on how to design, build, operate, and maintain bio-digester systems. This included technical insights into the chemistry of the process, various fuel sources, different types and advantages, output use for fertilizer, as well as the environmental impact and benefits of such systems. In particular, the pair of volunteers identified two benefits that the school would obtain with a bio-digester system: 1) clean and reliable source of fuel for cooking (i.e. replacing wood burning stoves), and 2) the fact that digester effluent can be used as a readily available and nutrient-rich fertilizer. Through these presentations and workshops, a total of 6 FADCANIC teachers and 68 students were trained. In addition to helping to establish a bi-digester system for the school, the objective of these engagements was to incentivize faculty and pupils to duplicate these low-cost technologies in their respective villages and farms.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Volunteer Highlight: Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak

Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak is a veterinarian, farmer, agricultural development practitioner and now CEO of Haiti Coffee. Since 1971, Myriam and her husband Mark have owned and managed Devil's Gulch Ranch in Nicasio, California, a diversified family farm that supplies high-end restaurants and wineries as well as educates children about nutrition and food production. Her experience in international development began in Niger, where she was a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1983-85 focusing on nutrition. Since 2007, Myriam has been working with Makouti Agro-Enterprise as a Partners of the Americas’ Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer. Throughout her 16 F2F assignments in Haiti, Dr. Kaplan-Pasternak has used her technical expertise to support the needs of impoverished communities in Haiti for which she received a Presidential Volunteer Service Award in 2010. Her efforts intensified following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which she along with her husband and children experienced firsthand. She currently acts as a consultant, catalyst, and grant-writer for several agricultural projects throughout Haiti. She also helped found and direct several 501(c) 3 nonprofit organizations, including DG Educational Services and the West Coast Haiti Network.


While working with host Makouti Agro-Enterprise, veteran F2F volunteer Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak realized the potential for exporting high-quality Haitian coffee to the international market. In July 2010, Dr. Kaplan-Pasternak recruited Haitian-American businessman Yves Gourdet, to travel to Haiti as a F2F volunteer in order to 1) assess coffee production in specific regions of country, 2) educate producers on the U.S specialty coffee market, as well as 3) determine the feasibility of connecting Haitian producers to U.S markets. Based on Gourdet’s findings, he and Dr. Kaplan-Pasternak developed a business plan and launched Haiti Coffee Inc.


In the first year, Haiti Coffee imported 11,000 pounds of coffee, ending the year with a small profit, and was extended a line of credit from a private supporter. The next year, Haiti coffee imported a full shipping container of coffee and expanded to a second production site. Coffee bean sales have now impacted the lives of thousands of farming families in Haiti, and the company has started reintroducing Haitian coffee to the world. What is most significant about Haiti Coffee is not only that is the result of cooperation between individuals and groups affiliated with F2F, but also that it is working to build a sustainable network to support viable, income-generating agricultural opportunities for Haitian farmers, and moving up the value-chain to access larger markets.

In addition to linking coffee producers to markets, Myriam, has been a key influence in the launch and ongoing development of locally-driven producer associations in Haiti. Among these cooperatives is the Association des Travailleurs de Dondon (ATD), a thriving, young cooperative that is leading the charge in their region’s resurgence. As they head into their fifth harvest season, founding director Jacquelin Lucas takes time to reflect on where they’ve been and where they are going:

It first starts with Myriam [Kaplan-Pasternak], a Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer, who helped us see that it was not a waste of time to focus on increasing the value of Haitian coffee. She’s been involved with many aspects of our business, from seedling production to processing to cupping. There are not enough words to describe Myriam’s influence on our effort and success.”

Myriam had been working with Jacquelin in his role as a field technician for Makouti and supported him in the creation of the cooperative. In the beginning, Jacquelin needed to educate the producers on quality standards for the international market. Thanks to F2F and volunteers like Myriam, he was able to teach other producers how to assess and meet quality standards at every step of the process. In addition to providing training and technical assistance, Myriam, through her role with Haiti Coffee, invested financially and emotionally in the success of the effort.

Today ATD is successfully competing in the international market. They have a contract with Haiti Coffee for the US market and are in negotiations with Vasco International, a Chinese company and potential buyer. Part of what has led to ATD’s rapid success has been the way they do business. They are singularly focused on quality and quality improvement as a core operating value. They apply a ‘quality lens’ at each point on the value chain and provide services to help their producers. For example, when producers bring their cherries (green beans) to sell, ATD does an initial sort on quality. They have visual tools to help educate producers about standards. They’ll pay 40-50% upfront to help bridge costs, and have other services such as de-pulping, drying and marketing, in addition to this credit function. Within the past two years, ATD has gone from 80,160 Haitian Gourdes ($1,781) in gross sales to 850,000 Haitian Gourdes ($13,077), and their coffee, is now consistently ranked 82 on the international ranking system. Dramatic improvements in quality bode well for the future. On the gender and environmental fronts, of its 200 members, 80 are women, and in 2015 their nursery had 14,000 seedlings of coffee and 5,000 seedlings of cacao. 

When asked what has contributed to ATD’s success, Jacquelin said it works like a family; everyone works together. To be a member of ATD, there are rules that producers must agree to: they must agree to be trained by the cooperative, and must live in the community. Other values are reflected in their vision which focus on well-being of community, environment and of course superior quality coffee. Since its inception, ATD has been supported by seven F2F volunteers, each building on the work and success of previous volunteers.