In January 2016, F2F volunteer Carmen Pacheco-Borden traveled to Panama to work with native Ngabe-Bugle women’s groups in the tomato farming communities of Hato Chami and Boca de Monte to make value-added products from their harvests and consequently increase their household income. Historically, smallholder farming families in the communities produce roughly 500 pounds of tomatoes per growing season, of which they sell 50% and consume 10% in the household. The remaining 40% (200 pounds) is usually not sold in time, resulting in a large post-harvest loss.
Ms. Pacheco-Borden, the owner of a small salsa business and a chemistry professor at the University of Colorado, trained the women’s groups in processing and canning tomato-based products for future household consumption or sale in local tourist markets. Through her training, it is expected that the farmers will be able to reduce their post-harvest losses significantly and generate additional income through value-added products, like salsas.
Similarly this past May in Ecuador, University of Oklahoma Extension Specialist, Dr. Barbara Brown, traveled to the city of Otavalo to provide training to EducaFuturo participants on fruit processing and value-added products from their uvilla and strawberry fruit. During her two-week trip, she visited the communities of San Rafael and Pijal to tour their strawberry and uvilla fields. Strawberries and uvilla are the two most abundant crops grown in the communities. Growers sell their fruit in nearby markets, including to the fast food chain KFC. However, in order to reduce their post-harvest losses, they are seeking to develop new products to add value to their fruit. As part of this effort, Dr. Brown conducted workshops on the production of fruit pulp, preserves, and jams (with and without added pectin). In addition, she discussed the feasibility of developing preserves and jams from tree tomatoes, blackberries, apples, and apricots. In order to better tailor the training sessions to the needs of the communities, Dr. Brown conducted workshops on the preparation of each value-added product using home-sized quantities, equipment, and resources. The goal is to allow the groups to first become familiar with home-scale production of these goods and then build their way up to commercial scale. As part of her recommendations, she noted that investing in heavy-grade plastic bags with a heat sealed closure will be extremely beneficial in increasing the shelf-life of their products. Dr. Brown felt confident that, with the right resources and continued support from the EducaFuturo program and Otavalo community, the two groups in Pijal and San Rafael will be able to follow through with the production of these products.
The assignments completed by both Carmen Pacheco-Borden and Dr. Barbara Brown are just two examples of the successful partnership between the Farmer-to-Farmer and EducaFuturo programs. The goal of this relationship was to combine the efforts and benefits of both programs with the hope of creating a greater and longer-lasting impact.