Thursday, December 24, 2009

Photo Contest promoting entrepreneurs in Developing Countries

This could be an way to put all those photos to work and make a few dollars for Makouti or another project in Haiti. Haiti is loaded with entrepreneurs. Go to the website and check it out.

“I Am An Entrepreneur” Photo Competition

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Contest details

Cambridge, MA – December 1, 2009 – The SEVEN Fund is pleased to announce the ‘I Am an Entrepreneur’ photography competition. This competition recognizes the outstanding use of photography to tell compelling stories of role model entrepreneurs from around the world. Anyone is welcome to participate in this competition. The competition will award twelve (12) prizes, one per month, over a period of one year. Each month, one finalist will be selected and will receive a prize of $100. The grand prize winner (selected from among the 12 finalist photographs) will receive $1,000 at the end of the year.
Often, the imagery associated with developing nations captures the misery that accompanies poverty. While it is important that these things are taken seriously and are documented, we believe that developing nations also represent tremendous opportunities for hope. The “I am an Entrepreneur” competition strives to reframe the dialogue around solutions to poverty by infusing the world's imagination with new imagery that focuses on entrepreneurship. Our objective with this competition is to gather stunning photographs profiling individual entrepreneurs from around the globe.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Guyanese Farmer Prospers with Hydroponics

Guyana's Kaieteur News Online published an article on December 12 which tells the story of a farmer from Hauraruni who is prospering, despite poor soil, with the help of a new hydroponics system and support from Farmer to Farmer volunteers and local organizations. The full article, "Highway farmer grows food where soil is no good", can be read here: In the spring of 2009 Farmer to Farmer volunteer Grady Sampson, from Clemson University, traveled to assist farmers with the hydroponics system. Grady was recruited by Partners of the Americas' Mississippi Chapter, which is partnered with the Guyana Chapter of Partners of the Americas.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Update from Haiti!

Haiti is currently facing an outbreak of Teschen Disease in its pigs. This is like polio for pigs. It is NOT contagious to humans but humans can spread the disease. As a volunteer travelling in Haiti you do risk accidently bringing this disease back to the USA if you are not careful. Therefore it is important that you wash your hands well after handling animals or soil. I carry disinfectant wipes with me since soap and water are not always easy to find. I also clean and disinfect my shoes if I think I may have been in contact with a contaminated area. I always do this the night before I leave Haiti and again when I get home. All my travel clothes go straight into the washing machine.
I am not telling you this to discourage you or to make you paranoid. As a veterinarian working with FTF in Haiti for 3 years, I have my hands literally in lots of diseases. I am also a farmer in California which makes me a high risk traveler and a potential threat to our food chain and my personal farm business. None of us wants to accidently be the point person who starts an epidemic. Luckily a little precaution goes a long way.
As an FTF volunteer in agriculture you will likely be asked about this disease by many Haitians. Here is some advice you can pass on that may help them get through this difficult impact to their economy and their food supply.
In Creole this disease is called Ren Casse or broken kidneys. The symptoms are as follows: Initially the pig may go off its feed and be a little depressed for a day or two. After that it may be fine with a good appetite and normal temperature. The pig then partially loses the use of its back legs. This may progress to its thighs, then rear end of its body and become a total paralysis. Severe cases are irreversible and the pigs die within a week.
There currently is no vaccine available because it has not been seen in Haiti in the last 15 years. It started in the Artibonite valley. It is suspected that it came in on a ship. I have been told that it will take a year before a vaccine can be available if at all. The incubation period is about 2 weeks. Isolation will protect the pigs but will be difficult in the long run as the virus spreads. Not all the pigs will die. The survivors will become resistant and the epidemic will pass. The big problem is that all the pigs are susceptible because it has been so long since the last infection. The good news is that it is not contagious to humans and the meat is safe to eat. What is a big problem is that the water used to wash the intestines out and rinse the meat is contaminated and will infect the area where it is dumped and infect more pigs. It is very important that this water not be fed to pigs, especially piglets who are just weaned.
It is of no value to treat the animals with antibiotics since it is a virus. Instead spend the money on feeding the pigs really well and keeping them clean. Give them lots of water and make sure it is not already contaminated. This will hopefully keep their exposure levels low so they only have a mild case and can then become resistant. Good nutrition will keep their immune systems strong. If they have parasites, worming them will help, but is best done before they get sick. Don't breed any sows while the disease is in the neighborhood as pregnancy makes them more susceptible. Once it has passed they may cautiously start breeding again. Most of the piglets will have some immunity from the mother’s colostrum and maternal antibodies, but will be susceptible to a mild form of the disease after weaning. Hygiene is thus very important at this point. After this they are resistant. These animals will then help rebuild the pig herds.
Here is some more information:
Please feel free to contact me with any new information or questions.
Good luck and happy holidays,

Saturday, December 12, 2009

organic greenhouse methods in the D.R.

We are wrapping up a two week training process in the D.R. before heading off for a week in Haiti. Our assignment here has been to conduct training sessions in various subjects of organic greenhouse management. We worked with three different local NGO's, each of whom has projects in greenhouse cultivation of sweet bell peppers. The greenhouses are operated by groups of 3-10 growers who work cooperatively. Depending upon the organization, the groups are either comprised exclusively of women, or made up of a mixture of men and women. Each of the three different NGO's with whom we collaborated had its own position on organic practices, ranging from those who were interested in adopting some organic methods as a means of reducing production costs to those who were committed to natural resource conservation and see organic production as a means of achieving that goal. We introduced a range of subjects during our meetings with growers. Topics such as organic foliar feeding applications made of compost tea and organic pesticide recipes were pretty easy for the growers to relate to. We also focused on slightly more complicated topics like solarization for soil diseasse management, mulching for water conservation and soil protection, and cover crops for fertility and crop diversity. Some groups were interested in learning about the requirements for organic certification. Others wanted to learn about seedling production to help them increase their quality control. And with several groups we went over record-keeping uses and processes. If I could come back in a year and see just one of these topics in use, it would be cover crops in the greenhouses. Of all the areas we addressed, this one is perhaps the most challenging for people to comprehend. As farmers, we understand the mental shift it takes to think of a cover crop as an investment in the soil, something you are harvesting not just for yourself but for the long-term health of your farming system. With the monoculture production of peppers year after year in the same soil, cover crops are one of the easiest, cheapest, and most effective means of achieving crop rotations and increased organic matter, among the many other benefits. I'm looking forward to following up with Juan Villar in a few months to see if this concept gets any traction with the growers. It's been a great two weeks! Emily Oakley and Mike Appel Three Springs Farm Oaks, OK

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Humor in Haiti

This is my 7th trip to Haiti as a Rabbit Project volunteer and as usual my trip itinerary went out the window in less than 12 hours. The weather is pleasantly warm ! and the hurricanes are someone else's problem this year so far. The work has been good and frustrating at times, but making continual progress.Some exciting opportunities are looming and I am hopeful. Haiti as usual has me laughing again. With Clinton's big push to renew business in Haiti all the hotels and island hoppers are gearing up for the competition of hosting all of us wonderful do gooders. I now have a beautiful, brand new, fingerprint free, flat screen TV in my room with a high tech battery backup system and remote with so many options. It even has cable. I was really looking forward to CNN in my room instead of the lobby TV to see if hurricanes were coming. Alas the only images I get is a crystal clear migrating "NO SIGNAL !" ( yes with the exclamation point). The real excitement came at midnight , 2 AM and 4 AM when the electricity switched back and forth between the government power and the hotel generator ( a regular occurrence despite government upgrades).This set off the battery back up. Beep beep beep..... In the dark without glasses I didn't stand a chance finding the camouflaged power switch and unplugging it from the wall only made it worse. I never would have thought I would miss the old TVs with rabbit ears and 2 channels with corduroy like static, badly dubbed in a foreign language. The rabbits win every time.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Haiti Nov. 2009

Today finds me back in Haiti anticipating the multitude of meetings we have lined up with potential funders for several rabbit production projects. Herve and I have been also discussing chocolate production. He has been buying cacao beans and making chocolate bars. This last week in San Francisco I met with the staff of TCHO chocolate ( and learned about the fermentation and transformation of cacao into chocolate. Someday Herve is hoping that TCHO will purchase beans from Makouti. Haiti is bustling with activity. There is a Sof'n free shampoo promotional event going on at the Roi Christophe Hotel and loads of charity workers increasing their efforts to help. The excitement is palpable. I am looking forward to visiting the rabbit projects which have been progressing nicely over the last three years. Our shipment of cage wire and water bottle nipples has cleared customs (YEAH!!!!!). This will put another 250 units in production. Several new projects are lined up just awaiting final budget revisions and launching. I am finding that our American obsession with paperwork is not an easily transferable skill. The good news is that it has showed us that in Quartier Morin the rabbit producers have increased the number of rabbits per producer by 300% since 2.5 years ago. The rabbits are healthier too. All we need is more Farmer to Farmer rabbit volunteers. Soon I hope to have a power point available on the project.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Milk Collection Center in Nicaragua

Growing up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin I developed a mental model of what it took to get milk from the cow to the processing plant. My volunteer assignment in Nicaragua certainly has had an impact on how I now view the dairy industry and the challenges farmers face getting their product to market. The video below shows milk being received at a milk collection center near the city of Boaco Nicaragua. I was impressed about the level of effort being put forth to maintain product quality.

Composting in Nicaragua

During my recent assignment in Nicaragua I had the opportunity to work with a group interested in learning about small scale composting. The group consisted of individuals from the community of San Jose de los Remates and all were eager learners. This training took place on September 9 on two farms. At the first location I provide instruction on the types and volumes of materials to include when building a pile as well as the care and management that needed to take place in the comming months. The video below was taken at the second location. I was able to take the time to shoot the video because the group was such a quick study.

Monday, August 31, 2009

More Photos from Haiti Trip

Here are some more photos from the small animal and beekeeping project in Haiti. Please see the previous blog entry to read about the trip. Enjoy the photos! Above: Speaking with sisters at Signeau, at their new rabbitry. Volunteer Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak helped them establish the rabbitry the previous week. The rabbits looked good - plenty of water, in the shade, eating their forage. They received their first next box and will hopefully begin breeding soon. Young rabbits enjoying some fruit near Cap Haitien. Commercial production rabbitry and Makouti rabbit training center. This site provides a good demonstration for producers. Group of young leaders from the community of Grand Boulage (South of Haiti) visiting rabbitries in Cap Haitien and receiving training from Makouti technicians in rabbit production, thanks to the Friends of Haiti. The Farmer to Farmer Program works with producers in the mountainous village of Grand Boulage. Every month, community leaders from various (40) areas in the North of Haiti convene to share reports from their villages on the progress of their production (honey, vegetables, coffee, rabbits, goats, etc.). They make up Makouti Agro Enterprise. Farmer to Farmer volunteers work with these leaders and their communities, providing opportunities for training and improvement, and through this cooperative the producers continue to share and receive follow-up support. Some Haitian beekeepers still work with primitive log hives. This hive, in Chantal (Southern Haiti) has been covered to protect the hive from predators. Log hives are difficult to inspect and manage. Farmer to Farmer volunteer Don Hopkins is currently in the South of Haiti, where he will assist such beekeepers in transitioning to modern hives. Here Benito, together with Bardeau, a beekeeper in Aquin, inspect a Kenya Top Bar hive. This type of hive is being piloted as a transition step between log and Langstroth hives. Beekeeper Nicodeme Pierre (center right) proudly displays his successful combs. They are heavy with all the honey! Mr. Pierre now harvests over 70 gallons of honey from his hives and is one of the many Farmer to Farmer success stories. Display stand at the fair in Cap Haitien. Anyone want to sample some honey? Here, displayed are gallons of Makouti honey and a case showing honey from various regions of Haiti. Depending on the available flowers, the honey varies from a light golden color, to a reddish color, and to a dark color. The glass cases contain bees and combs so people could view the honeybees in action. It was a success!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Staff Travel to Haiti to View Ongoing FTF Progress

Peggy Carlson, Program Director, and I recently traveled to Haiti to visit our local Chapter, staff, and ongoing projects. Please see below some photos and a brief summary of our trip. We hope this blog will be enjoyed by upcoming volunteers, returned volunteers and for all those who are interested in agriculture in Haiti. [photo: view of Aquin from hotel]

After our arrival in Port au Prince and some meetings there, we traveled throughout the South of Haiti (Signeau, Aquin, Les Cayes, Camp Perrin, Chantal, Jacmel, etc.) to meet with beekeepers who are involved with the program and also with farmers, association members, students, and others interested in learning more about involvement in the growing network of Haitian beekeepers. Through Farmer to Farmer and the efforts of Makouti Agro Enterprise, beekeepers in the North and increasingly in the South of Haiti are coming together to share experiences and solutions to their challenges. There is a wide spectrum of experience and types of hives – from log to Langstroth – and currently the beekeepers are experimenting with the use of a few Kenya Top Bar Hives, or Long Hives. Farmer to Farmer volunteers are actively working with the beekeepers to evaluate the effectiveness of their hives and improve management. [photo: inspecting hive for varroa mite]
After returning to Port au Prince, we flew to Cap Haitien where we inspected some more hives and also visited several rabbitries. Most rabbitries were community or family operations, some with more basic cages than others. Makouti’s “TechMaks” (technicians) have made much progress in working with the producers and following up on the volunteers’ recommendations, and you can see the pride on the faces of the farmers as they show you their rabbits. This project is growing rapidly thanks to our volunteers and Haitian counterparts.
On August 13-14, Cap Haitien put on its annual city fair, complete with a promotional stand for Makouti Agro Enterprise. Makouti exhibited honey from all over Haiti (plus New Jersey!) as well as live bees and honey comb, displayed in a specially-designed glass frame.The bees were a big attraction and a great educational tool. Makouti gave samples for people to taste and later served
BBQ rabbit. It was a hit! As usual, demand for the products was greater than production, so Farmer to Farmer has more work to do to help increase production. But we were pleased to see the progress in production and marketing made by the groups with whom we work. [photo: visiting community rabbitry in North]
In this video, Benito Jasmin (in voice) and Gerard Michel Joseph (FTF Field Staff) instruct local beekeepers on inspecting the Kenya Top Bar Hive.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Welcome to the Farmer to Farmer Blog

Partners of the America's Farmer to Farmer Program improves economic opportunities in rural areas of Latin America and the Caribbean by increasing food production and distribution and promoting better farm and marketing operations. The program focuses on select agricultural commodity chains and US volunteer experts provide specific technical assistance to small and medium-scale producers, agro-processors and others working at all levels of these chains. The Farmer to Farmer Program blends two goals: providing people-to-people level exchanges and promoting sustainable economic growth and development. This Farmer to Farmer Blog will connect our expert volunteers and provide a space to communicate experiences. Volunteers can post pictures, comments, reports and stories that they want to share with farmers and volunteers everywhere.