Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year!

The Farmer to Farmer team would like to recognize all the hard work of the volunteers, staff and host organizations as we look back on the year. In 2010 (calendar year) we had 89 Farmer to Farmer volunteers travel to the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua, Guyana, Ecuador, Jamaica, Brazil, and Bolivia! As we move into 2011, we are excited for even more volunteer assignments and more project success and accomplishments.

Cheers to a very Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

100 New Beehives: A Gift to the Beekeepers of Haiti

We are happy to share that Partners of the Americas' Farmer to Farmer Team, with the invaluable support of our volunteers and partner organizations, has arranged the donation of 100 new beehives to be shipped to Haiti. The donation will benefit the beekeepers collaborating with our apiculture project as well as others in the industry. The hive boxes will be assembled in Haiti and have several uses such as demonstration hives and for training purposes at local agriculture universities.

Typical Haitian Apiary
The donation also includes the frames, nails, and foundation for the hives. These activities will be managed by Makouti Agro Enterprise, a dynamic local agribusiness, key partner, and beneficiary of Partners' Farmer to Farmer Program in Haiti. The Haiti FTF Program provides hive box and equipment construction training, however due to widespread deforestation, the type of wood necessary for a quality, durable hive is not locally available nor is the right type of nails and sufficient wax for foundation. Sending new hives, rather than used ones, limits the spread of pest and disease. These hives will serve as an example for beekeepers, students, carpenters, and agriculturalists in Haiti, and will help to maximize training as well as income from honey and hive products.

We are pleased that the order has gone through just in time for this season of giving. The sea container is due to arrive in Haiti in the coming months after being processed and clearing customs. The donation is a culmination of the time, energy, and donations of several groups and individuals over the past months who have responded with generosity to this specific request from Haiti. Special recognition goes to the following:

Virginia Webb giving a workshop in Haiti, 2006
Beekeeper and FTF Volunteer Virginia Webb, of Mtn Honey in Georgia, who has provided a great deal of advice and funding. Her beekeeping association, NE Georgia Beekeeping Association, also contributed to this cause.

Leo Blumle, partner to the Program and resourceful coordinator for such projects in Haiti, for offering storage, logistical support, and space in his sea container free of charge.

Dadant and Sons, Inc. beekeeping equipment supplier, notably Mark Bennett in the Virginia office, who have generously provided free shipping within the US as well as a discounted rate on the foundation. We are grateful for the support of Dadant, for their contribution to the improvement of the beekeeping industry in Haiti.

We continue to raise remaining funds for this project. If you or your organization is interested in making a donation, please visit our donations page or contact us. (please note "Haiti Beekeeping" on the check or form) We will be providing shipment updates on this blog in the future.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays from the Farmer to Farmer Team!

Whether it is Felices Fiestas, Happy Holidays, Jou konje Happy, Boas Festas or Joyeuses Fêtes, the holidays are a time to celebrate. During this season, we would like to thank all the dedicated volunteers, field staff, program collaborators, host organizations, funders and all the others who have made our Farmer to Farmer Program a success.

Enjoy the season and best wishes for 2011!

The Farmer to Farmer Team

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dominican Republic: Good Agricultural Practices

Partners of the Americas' Farmer to Farmer volunteer, Dr. Obadiah Mugambi Njue, provided trainings and technical assistance in the areas of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and vegetable production in protected greenhouse environments.

Information from Dr. Njue's Farmer to Farmer trip report:

"Greenhouses can be a means to economically maintain optimum growing conditions at times of the year when production in the field is not conducive and when market prices for the vegetable crops are highest. Production practices need to carefully address the Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). Food contamination can occur at any level of food handling, from production through transporting the product to the consumer. A GAPs program is a first step to ensure food safety. Production practices (both in greenhouses and in open fields) should emphasize on prevention of microbial contamination of farm produce during production and through post-harvest handling. Greenhouses visited in the Dominican Republic were designed to incorporate a GAPs program with a footbath and hand wash station installed at the entrance of each greenhouse. However, women producers and technicians had not received a formal training on GAPs and this was evidenced by some of the practices observed.

Production of vegetables under protected (controlled) environments offer many advantages compared to those planted in the open fields. However, the advantages can only be realized if the controlled environmental factors (example, temperature, water, nutrients and soil borne diseases and other pests) are properly managed. Lack of proper management can result in many challenges, including poor quality products, low yields and sometimes loss of crop.

Several greenhouses were visited in Padre de las Casas, Jarabacoa, Constanza, San Jose de Ocoa and Santiago. Workshops (training sessions) on GAPs and Management of Crops in Protected Environments were conducted for women producers and technicians. The training sessions followed greenhouse visits. Analysis results (suggestions and recommendations) were discussed with participants during the training sessions."

Dr. Njue conducting a training for the USAID/RED beneficiaries in Jarabacoa.
Dr. Njue observing reduced fruit set due to flower abortion in one of the greenhouses.

Cilantro and peppers growing in the same greenhouse - Dr. Njue identified this as a an unsustainable practice. 
The woman's group in Las la Gunas - Arriba diversified their greenhouse production by growing Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) along with peppers. Diversification is a recommended practice for small scale fruit and vegetable production both in greenhouses and open field. However, the volunteer noted that GAPs need to be incorporated into the planning of crop combination and rotation. Growing the two crops together was not recommended by the volunteer for future practices. Chemicals sprayed on the pepper crop can easily get on Cilantro and Cilantro is sometimes used in salads and this practice does not meet GAP standards. The volunteer advised the growing of Cilantro after the peppers completed their production cycle and only if the rotation was profitable. Another practice that had GAPs concern was failure to have a recorded chemical spray schedule and types of chemicals used in the greenhouse. Dr.Njue presented these recommendations during the trainings and in his trip report and the woman's group was pleased to receive this assistance.

Monday, December 20, 2010

St. Kitts Gears Up for Farmer to Farmer Volunteer

In collaboration with Partners of the Americas' A Ganar Program on the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis, the Farmer to Farmer Program is sending veteran FTF Volunteer Tom Syverud, a specialist in organic production and outreach, to provide training to the farm managers and youth members of the Community Achievers Project (CAP) in St. Kitts. Through the "flexible assignments" in the FTF Program, it is possible for volunteers to assist local agriculture and environment organizations in many countries throughout the world. Check out the press release published on to read more about the upcoming visit!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Nicaragua: Rural Community Tourism

Waterfall in San Jose de los Remates
Farmer to Farmer volunteer, Alan Robinson recently traveled to Nicaragua to assess the feasibility and do the preliminary planning for rural community tourism in the municipality of San Jose de los Remates. This was the first community tourism assignment, as the Farmer to Farmer Program in Nicaragua has been working primarily on improving the dairy value chain. Rural Tourism (sometimes described as agritourism, rural community tourism, community-based ecotourism and adventure tourism) on a small scale is already quite common in Nicaragua, however not in San Jose de los Remates. The volunteer worked with the San Jose de los Remates Mayor's office and Tourism Association to help them put together tourism strategies and to make it clear that whatever programs they develop they will be in competition with other rural tourism in Nicaragua and to some extent in neighboring countries like Honduras and Costa Rica. It was discussed that to be competitive, the products and services they offer must be carefully developed to attract the kind of tourists they want, and must be marketed in ways that will reach that group of potential tourists and convince them to come to San Jose de los Remates. The volunteer found that the highest potential for tourism lies in the coffee and dairy farms, La Chorrea waterfall, and Cerro Cumaica / Cerro Allegre Natural Reserve. Tourist related businesses would bring in supplement incomes and diversify the local economy away from just purely dairy and coffee farming.
FTF volunteer, Alan Robinson, getting some tourism tips from a little helper.

The FTF volunteer maps out possible walking and hiking trails.
Mrs. Robinson sharing some gallo pinto during the homestay. Mrs. Robinson was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nicaragua 30 years ago so she accompanied her husband during his assignment.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

FTF Volunteers in the News

Two of Partners' Farmer to Farmer Volunteers have been in the news recently:

USAID's official blog, IMPACT, has published a blog post written by FTF volunteer Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak. Originally posted to the Devils Gulch Educational Services blog, in this article Myriam comments on her trip to Washington, DC, where she was presented with her Presidential Volunteer Service Award, as well as her experience with and recommendations for the Farmer to Farmer Program. The Marin Independent Journal also recently published a news article on her efforts in Haiti through the FTF Program.

Tamra Fakhoorian conducted a radio interview on algae as a biofuel source and the merits of integrated farming (biogas, duckweed, and aquaculture) after having completed a team assignment to Guyana in November. Ms. Fakhoorian traveled as an algae industry specialist, along with duckweed specialist Louis Landesman and biogas specialist Vance Haugen. The trip was a collaborative effort between Partners of the Americas, FAVACA, and IPED, and the volunteers traveled to various regions of Guyana to consult with farmers engaged in integrated farming systems. Click here to listen to the interview, What's New in the World of Alternative Fuels, through

Monday, December 13, 2010

USAID Press Release Honoring FTF Volunteers

Dr. Thomas Evans (seated, center) and Dr. Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak (seated, far right) join other Farmer to Farmer volunteers and USAID representatives in being honored by USAID. Two other volunteers photographed, Jason Licamele (far left) and Terrill Christensen (standing, 5th from right), have also traveled with Partners' FTF Program.
The US Agency for International Development has issued a press release announcing the Farmer to Farmer volunteers who were recently honored in Washington, DC, for their voluntary service abroad. As described in an earlier blog post, two of Partners of the Americas' volunteers were selected for their exemplary service and dedication to assisting farmers and farm organizations in developing countries. Congratulations to Dr. Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak and Dr. Thomas Evans, who were both presented with Presidential Volunteer Service Awards, as well as the hundreds of individuals who volunteer their time and skills abroad through Partners of the Americas' Farmer to Farmer Program!
Dr. Thomas Evans, of the University of Delaware, receives his Presidential Volunteer Service Award certificate from Greg Gottlieb, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Food Security

Dr. Kaplan-Pasternak, of Devils Gulch Ranch in Nicasio, CA, poses with Mr. Gottlieb after receiving her Presidential Volunteer Service Award certificate

Friday, December 10, 2010

FTF Flex Volunteers Featured in Brazil News

In November 2010 a team of two Farmer to Farmer volunteers, Richard (Dick) Waybright and Doug Stauffer, from the Pennsylvania Chapter of Partners of the Americas traveled to Bahia, Brazil to meet with stakeholders in the dairy sector and share information and technologies related to milk production. They were generously accommodated by the Department of Agriculture and other local organizations, and their seminars generated a television interview and other press such as this article in (Click here for an English translation).

This was Mr. Waybright's and Mr. Stauffer's second trip to Bahia through the Farmer to Farmer Program, following their previous FTF trips in 1997. Currently the Director of the Pennsylvania Chapter, Mr. Stauffer has served in various leadership roles of the Pennsylvania - Bahia Partnership over the past 25 years and is the Founder and President of Imperial Beverage Systems, Inc.. Mr. Waybright, of award-winning Mason Dixon Farms, has extensive experience with growing a small family-owned farm into a high-tech dairy operation.

Monday, December 6, 2010

USAID Volunteer Appreciation Event

Partners of the Americas’ Farmer to Farmer volunteers to be recognized at the
USAID Volunteer Appreciation Event

USAID is hosting a Volunteer Appreciation Event on December 7, 2010 in Washington DC to honor Farmer to Farmer volunteers. The event is part of USAIDs continued dedication to global food security and the launching of the Feed the Future Program. The Farmer to Farmer Program is one of the many USAID Programs that compliments these efforts and directly contributes to agricultural development and economic growth. Two of Partners’ Farmer to Farmer volunteers will be in attendance and recognized at the Volunteer Appreciation Event.

Partners of the Americas’ Farmer to Farmer Volunteer Honorees:

Dr. Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak is a veterinarian, farmer, and development practitioner who has traveled 10 times to Haiti as a specialist in rabbit production with Partners of the Americas’ Farmer to Farmer Program. Dr. Kaplan-Pasternak has focused primarily on helping Makouti Agro Enterprise establish a successful rabbit production microenterprise system. Myriam and her husband Mark (also a Farmer to Farmer volunteer) own and manage Devil’s Gulch Ranch in Nicasio, California, a diversified family farm where they raise sheep, pigs, rabbits and wine grapes for high end restaurants and wineries as well as educate children about nutrition and food production. Her experience in international development began in Niger where she served as a US Peace Corps Volunteer from 1983-85, focusing on nutrition.

Dr. Thomas Evans is a Full Professor of Botany and Plant Pathology in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Delaware. Dr. Evans has traveled four times to Jamaica and twice to the Dominican Republic with Partners of the Americas’ Farmer to Farmer Program. In Jamaica, Dr. Evans and his team worked to implement new greenhouse production practices and integrate disease management programs in vegetable production and maximize quality and value of greenhouse-grown tomatoes, melons, microgreens and sprouts.  Dr. Evans has a Ph.D. from Michigan State University in Botany and Plant Pathology where he did research on the contribution of asparagus virus to the decline of asparagus in Michigan. He is the treasurer for the International Society for Plant Pathology, has over 70 scholarly publications and has been invited to speak at numerous professional presentations.

The guest speaker at the Volunteer Appreciation Event is Gregory Gottlieb, Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Food Security and in attendance will be all the Farmer to Farmer Implementing Organizations. The volunteers will receive Presidential Volunteer Service Awards and they will present about their Farmer to Farmer experiences.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Agriculture, Climate Change, and Partners of the Americas

FTF Volunteer Otto Wiegand with cattle farmers
Agriculture contributes an estimated 20-30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, mainly attributed to the release of nitrous oxide and methane from fertilizer use, as well as carbon dioxide emissions from land clearing. This recent article by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development announces a new fund to address climate change and food security, but also provides a good overview of the complex issue of agricultural production's contribution to climate change, as well as the ways in which future food production could be jeopardized by its effects.

Since 1991, Partners' Farmer to Farmer volunteers have already trained and assisted thousands of farmers throughout Latin America and the Caribbean in the implementation of sustainable agricultural practices. Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) present a cost-effective opportunity for farmers to use natural resources more efficiently and thus, maintain yields in the long-term when faced with environmental instability. Examples of BMPs are soil and water conservation, reduced application of chemical fertilizer and pesticides, and integrated pest management, among others.

Drainage ditch overcome with aquatic plants
Even more, Partners is now in the start-up phase of a new Climate Change Fellows Program, a professional exchange program between the US and Colombia to foster relationships between professionals and community organizations in dealing with climate change issues. Please follow the link above to learn more and find out how you, your colleagues, or your US or Colombian organization may be eligible for a Fellowship or to host a Colombian or US Fellow!

Over the next year the Farmer to Farmer Program will also be supporting climate change adaptation in Colombia, related to both agriculture and environment, through our "flexible assignments". Follow this link to learn more about how FTF's flex assignments can support the travel of US agriculturalists and environmentalists, and how organizations or farms in Colombia can receive the visits of these individuals as volunteers to work together on issues and practices related to climate change mitigation.

For example, a Colombian microcredit organization could request a specialist in crop insurance to conduct trainings, or a farmers association may request an agricultural engineer to help prevent flooding of member farmers' fields. Or an entomologist/pathologist team from the US could travel to Colombia to conduct field visits and workshops related to pest and disease risks associated with climbing temperatures. For more information, contact Meghan at or Jessie at

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Farmer to Farmer team would like to wish all our U.S. volunteers a very Happy Thanksgiving! We're thankful for all your hard work and dedication to agriculture and sustainable development. We thought everyone might like to see some photos of dishes from different countries where Farmer to Farmer is working. Enjoy!

Haiti - rice and beans
Dominican Republic - fish, avocado and plantains
Guyana - tropical fruit salad
Nicaragua - plantains and cheese

Happy Thanksgiving from the Farmer to Farmer team!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Si a la leche Campaign

The Pan American Dairy Federation is currently carrying out a campaign across the Americas to increase awareness and engage various stakeholders in promoting the consumption of dairy products as a way to benefit human health. CANISLAC, the dairy association leading the campaign efforts in Nicaragua has partnered with Farmer to Farmer to achieve the goal of reaching various populations around the country. CANISLAC recently recognized the support of Farmer to Farmer and the hard work of our volunteers and staff. That publication also featured photos of Farmer to Farmer volunteer, Kshinte Brathwaite.

Nicaraguan school children sample milk and yogurts as part of the Si a la Leche Campaign.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Haiti in the Time of Cholera

Here in the United States, we all continue to hear news out of Haiti - cholera, Hurricane Tomas, and elections. Our Farmer to Farmer staff and volunteers who have recently been in Haiti during the past month are all doing well. As we follow the news and developments closely, they send reports directly from Haiti.  Sometimes the local reports vary slightly from what is portrayed by the international media.

Dr. Kaplan-Pasternak checks rabbit body condition in Haiti
We thought you would enjoy reading some excerpts from the blog of Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak (see below), a repeat FTF volunteer and veterinarian who is currently in Haiti. She, along with the Farmer to Farmer staff and members of Makouti Agro Enterprise, are in the middle of a "whirlwind tour" of Haiti, where so far they have given trainings in at least 9 villages that are just starting rabbit production projects. The goal was to set up 220 new cages and train 400 new producers. Their stop in Cap Haitien may have delayed their travels some, but they are eager to continue with the plan.

Everyday the word cholera is spoken at least a half dozen times in my presence. It stands out as a chilly word with a sharp edged and is nearly always followed by laughter. Here in the northern part of Haiti, we have yet to run into a case, but the rumors and jokes abound. Anyone who goes to the hospital or dies is said to have cholera. Several of the villages I taught in had rumors of a child who had died of cholera the day before, but the stories were so similar that it felt like the proverbial little brown dog that follows newcomers everywhere they go in Haiti.“There’s that dog again. How did it find us here?” Laughter is thankfully the best medicine and a delightful cultural bridge. 90% of village dogs are “Little Brown Dogs.”

I have noticed that people are pretty serious about hand washing before they eat ... It has become a tradition with my colleagues that I bring Chlorox wipes with me. It’s a habit I have since I handle sick animals regularly with contagious diseases like mange. They’re in big demand this trip and you can even find them in the local market.
I wrote the above paragraphs less than two days ago. Today is the 13th of November .... I still can’t confirm any cases of cholera in the Northern departments but news is vague. Its confirmed in Port au Prince and Gonaives and of course in the Artibonite Valley where it started. The number of deaths is 720 so far but rising. Epidemiologically this makes sense since we are a week after the hurricane and now through the incubation period for those infected during the flooding and storms. Thankfully the rains have stopped and the sun is shining bringing with it the disinfectant power of the sun and drying up the flooded streets. Lets hope…

I taught a basic rabbit course today in Grand Riviere with two of my colleagues. It was our first time teaching together as a team. When people heard that I knew about cholera I was asked to speak to the group and answer questions. By the time I was finished explaining the epidemiology, ways to prevent infection, treatment etc. it hit me. While I had made them feel some relief and a sense of control of the unknown future I was left with the collective heavy weight of fear and pain that we all carry. We have not yet healed from the losses and the pain of January 12th nor are we ready to take on another challenge of unknown proportion. I explained that cholera would never reach the magnitude of 230,000 dead in 35 seconds nor even the impact of AIDS but that seems little comfort at this time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Farmer to Farmer "flex" Volunteers Travel to Bolivia

The 2008 – 2013 Farmer to Farmer Program “core” projects are in Haiti, Guyana, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. However, the program can work in other countries as well with flexible assignments. The flexible (“flex”) assignments allow Farmer to Farmer to send US volunteers to support ongoing agricultural and environmental projects, explore new project areas, and take advantage of opportunities outside of the core countries. Volunteers on flex assignments provide technical assistance and trainings to support new or on-going projects.

In October, 2 volunteers from the University of Arkansas traveled to Bolivia on "flex" assignments: Dr. McLeod, a Professor in the Department of Entomology and Dr. Correll, a Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology. In coordination with the Arkansas - Eastern Bolivia Chapter of Partners of the Americas and CIAT (Center for Tropical Agricultural Investigation) the volunteers provided technical assistance to communities in the departments of Santa Cruz and Beni.   

In each community where the volunteers visited they carried out the following activities: 1. Examined vegetable fields and provided suggestions in vegetable production, especially, with insect and disease management. 2. Provided vegetable seed to people interested in starting a vegetable garden. 3. Explained to school children the value of including vegetables in their daily diet. 4. Encouraged gardening interest in school children by instituting contests to produce the biggest watermelon or squash. Additionally the volunteers visited the horticultural gardens of the Technical University of Beni and gave specific suggestions on vegetable insect and disease management. In Santa Cruz, training was provided to CIAT personnel in insect IPM, pesticide use and safety.

Partners is pleased to support agricultural projects, organizations and businesses throughout Latin America and the Caribbean!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Haiti Farmer to Farmer Program in the News

Volunteer Norman Bezona has published an article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald, following his recent Farmer to Farmer trip to Haiti. In the article he reflects on post-earthquake Haiti and the Haitian and Hawaiian coffee industries. Dr. Bezona first traveled to Haiti with Partners of the Americas’ Farmer to Farmer Program in 1999 and has made great contributions to the production of certain species of bamboo in Haiti which can be used for construction.

An article on Partners of the Americas' efforts to improve the Haitian beekeeping industry also appears on Regions Bank's See the Good website.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Small-scale Producers Benefit from Increased Coffee Sales

Through Partners’ Farmer to Farmer Program, US technical experts from universities and businesses, including Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, have traveled to Haiti, Honduras and elsewhere to provide assistance with coffee production, processing and marketing to small-scale producers.

Haiti: Coffee Sales Increase with Professional Labels and Packaging
Makouti Agro Enterprise, a Haitian-owned agribusiness based in Cap Haitien, works closely with the Farmer to Farmer Program. Makouti requested technical assistance in product marketing, packaging and labeling. Makouti member Gerard Michel Joseph, for example, sold his coffee in simple brown paper bags with no label and customers could not see the quality, origin or the brand of the coffee. To address this need, a Farmer to Farmer volunteer helped develop logos, design labels and improve packaging. The label demonstrates the coffee’s quality: natural with no added preservatives, finely ground, and locally harvested.  

Redesigning the shape of the package and including a professional label proved successful and profitable.  Before, most of the coffee was sold informally in Cap Haitien and to family members. Now, Makouti has signed contract with local hotels and supermarkets, and they are selling the coffee in fairs in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere, including informally in US farmers markets.  Although processing constraints are currently hindering the production of an export-quality product, there is a lot of potential for improvement and growth.

Honduras: “Coffee That Builds Communities”
Coffee is the leading export in Honduras and makes up about 22% of export revenue.  Previously, Vermont Farmer to Farmer volunteers identified constraints faced by Honduran farmers in the specialty coffee market and helped develop strategies to overcome those constraints, improving access to international specialty markets and increasing producer income.  These strategies were based on improving quality control, developing organic and Fair Trade production practices, and building the institutional capacity necessary to promote Honduran specialty coffee abroad by providing technical assistance in key steps of the production cycle. 

In 2005, the Compañeros Cafe project was begun, with the help of the Knuth family and the Vermont chapter of Partners of the Americas.  The project buys coffee from small-scale, high-altitude, organic-certified farms in the Montaña de Comayagua national park in central Honduras.  The coffee sales support farmers and communities by paying fair prices and by returning profits in the form of community development projects.  To buy Compañeros Café or learn more about the project, please visit:

The Farmer to Farmer Program will continue to help small-scale coffee producers throughout the region.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Promotional Video for the Nicaraguan Cattle Industry Created by FTF Volunteers

Farmer to Farmer volunteers Cheryl Diermyer and Lauren Rosen traveled around Nicaragua to put together a video that highlights the cattle and dairy farming industries. The volunteers interviewed farmers, business owners and others to bring to light the importance of consuming local dairy products. The consumption of local meat and dairy products is important for nutritional and health reasons and it helps the local economy. The video is being aired on local TV stations and in schools and is being promoted by cattle and dairy farmer associations.

Farmer to Farmer works with the whole dairy value chain in Nicaragua, even the marketing/media competent that is generally out of reach for the producers and cooperatives. Watch this video to get a glimpse into the dairy and cattle industry in Nicaragua:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Guyana: Land of Many Waters

Guyana is known as the Land of Many Waters. As a matter of fact, rivers are often the best means to reach certain areas in Guyana. The capital city, Georgetown, lies below sea level. This makes for a unique experience for FTF volunteers, and those whose assignments bring them to these parts of Guyana often enjoy the adventure and scenery. The Essequibo is Guyana's major river, draining many of the rivers from the interior of the country. Guyana is a beautiful country with rich biodiversity. Below are photos from various FTF staff and volunteer trips over the years. Enjoy!

FTF Field Staff pose for a shot on the way to Mainstay, to visit the pineapple growers
Amerindian mother teaches her daughter to swim
These stilts are helpful in case of flooding

Automobile ferry

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

FTF Volunteer Shares Techniques for Food Preservation and Processing

In the Dominican Republic, Farmer to Farmer volunteer, Ralph Bucca, provided workshops and hands-on trainings on the preservation and processing of fruits and vegetables. At the University ISA, the volunteer gave presentations on the use of solar food dryers and, with much help from the participants, they all constructed a solar dryer. Amongst the participants in the workshops were 30 university students, the Director of the Department of Food Science and Technology, and the Director of Appropriate Technology for Peace Corps/Dominican Republic.

The workshop participants at Univeristy ISA show off their newly constructed solar food dryer.

The university students prepare bananas, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant to test out the new solar dryer.
In addition to trainings at universities, the volunteer visited a mango dehydration business. The volunteer found that the current solar dryer design at their facility is allowing for too much humidity to enter and therefore, not allowing the mango to properly dry. Recommendations to the construction and design were provided.  Solar drying is an inexpensive and feasible way to preserve food and add value to the producers current fruit and vegetables crops.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Guyana FTF Program Helps Farmers Reach Goal of Exporting

Volunteers Trevor Hylton and Brian Rosa examine butternut squash crop with Hauraruni members
Over the past 18 months or so, Partners' Farmer to Farmer Program has been assisting the Haururuni Friendly Farmers Society in their shadehouse and in-field production of vegetables. You may remember previous blog posts about their efforts and challenges - growing crops in very sandy soils, experimenting with shadehouse production of vegetables and other technologies.

We are excited to announce that their hard work has paid off and Hauraruni has reached its goal: they have recently exported their first crop to Antigua and Barbados! Whereas only 60% of the crop - butternut squash - was expected to be deemed export quality, a startling 91% was determined to be high enough quality for export. The farmers are able to sell the remaining crop to local markets, and they are planning to send a 200 lb sample to New York City. This achievement is a significant success since small-scale farmers in Guyana are rarely able to produce a sufficient amount of crops of export quality and, even so, to make the linkages to export markets.

FTF Volunteers meet with IICA Representative Mr. Jean
Their success did not come easily. This article in the Kaieteur News Online denotes the many obstacles faced by Hauraruni but also their resourcefulness. In the words of FTF Volunteer Pete Wotowiec, "they... are very astute business people, sincere, and hard working." In addition to Partners of the Americas, the Farmers Society has solicited assistance from various international organizations such as the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA) and the USAID Guyana Trade and Investment Support (GTIS). Over these many months the Farmer to Farmer Program has worked together with Hauraruni and these organizations to increase knowledge and make improvements in hydroponics, pesticide safety, drip irrigation and fertigation, greenhouse management, and crop nursery management among others. Below are pictures taken over the course of the past year at Hauraruni.
Hauraruni Friendly Farmers Society Chairman Mr. Fredericks working in shadehouse, 2009
Mr. Fredericks explains problems with soil preparation, April 2010
Fields were being prepared for first crop, papaya, during visit of Volunteer Pete Wotowiec in June 2010
Volunteers and Chairman Fredericks taking  a break from harvesting squash, Sept 2010
Assessing vegetables produced with hydroponics, Sept 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

World Food Day - United Against Hunger - October 16, 2010

World Food Day is an event designed to increase awareness, understanding and informed, year-around action to alleviate hunger. It is observed each October 16th in recognition of the founding of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The theme of this year’s observance is “United Against Hunger” chosen to recognize the efforts made in the fight against world hunger at national, regional and international levels.

In order to overcome hunger and food insecurity, we need to increase global food production without degrading soils and the environment. To achieve food secure populations, it is necessary to improve access, availability, stability, and quality of food. Partners’ Farmer to Farmer Program is contributing to food security and fighting hunger in the communities and countries where we work. Farmer to Farmer volunteers have assisted cooperatives, businesses, small farmers, and associations to improve their practices, yielding more crops and higher profits giving families more purchasing power to buy healthy food and making more food available in local markets. Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy lifestyle.

A few examples of Partners’ Farmer to Farmer contributions to food security and hunger relief:

Nicaragua – Small-scale dairy production is a tool for poverty alleviation and for increasing food security. Farmer to Farmer has been assisting producers in improving the quantity and quality of their milk production so they can increase profits and have more ability to purchase food and necessary items for their families. This also helps the consumers because they have access to better quality and more diversified dairy products in local and regional markets.

GuyanaFarmer to Farmer has been supporting vegetable production which contributes directly to food security. Families have access to fresh local vegetables and the producers are expanding production with new irrigation technologies. These inputs allow for higher quality crops, meaning better produce for the consumers and higher profits for the producers.

Haiti – Rabbit production supports food security efforts in many ways. Rabbit meat is a healthy protein source in rural communities and the producers can use the income from selling rabbits to purchase other foodstuffs. Additionally, rabbit production is a reliable, income generating activity ensuring available food during times of instability. For example, during the earthquake in January of this year, communities had limited access to food outside of their communities so rabbits were a necessary and essential component to family diets.

Dominican Republic – Greenhouse vegetable production is an incoming-generating activity for groups of women and it contributes to community and regional food security. Greenhouses ensure the availability of nutritious vegetables in rural areas and offer a more stable system of production since the crops are less prone to the many threats of open field production.

On behalf of World Food Day, Farmer to Farmer would like to thank all the volunteers and staff that contribute to overcoming food insecurity, hunger and poverty on this day and every day.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Global Giving Match!

Global Giving is matching donations at 30% or more from now until October 21, or until funds run out! Partners of the Americas' Farmer to Farmer Program supports a project on Global Giving called "Feeding Families". Donations support agricultural development and food production in the mountain village of Grand Boulage, Haiti, and FTF volunteers supplement these materials and inputs with training. Support the project now and make your donation count even more!

For more information on the project or on FTF activities in Grand Boulage, click on the image below or on the "Grand Boulage" Label on the right hand column of this blog.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Some Outcomes of Farmer to Farmer Assistance

What difference does the Farmer to Farmer Program make? Below are just a few outcomes of Partners of the Americas' FTF Program from this year. Thank you to all the volunteers and partners who have contributed to these successes!

And remember, a little can go a long way. For example, in Haiti the difference between a child going to school and not going to school is only $50/year in school fees, which is out of reach for the majority of families. Our Haitian staff report that 74% of improved rabbit producers working with FTF are able to send their children to school.

Volunteer Trevor Hylton discusses butternut squash packaging with Hauraruni FFS Chairman and Packaging Facilities Manager
Before FTF assistance, the Hauraruni Friendly Farmers Society was limited to agricultural production of some vegetables and beans only in shadehouses and for local markets because of the very sandy soils in the area. With drip irrigation technology and training, they now have the capacity to produce higher-value field crops destined for niche markets.The farmers have cultivated a ten acre plot and have recently begun harvesting their first crop of butternut squash, which is being packaged at the Guyana Marketing Corporation Packaging Facility for export.

Volunteer Mark Kopecky discusses forages in Nicaragua
19 farms implemented improved pasture management systems and they were able to increase the amount of feed available to their cattle. As a result, milk production increased by 25%, from 3 liters to 3.75 liters per cow, per day.

With the assistance of Farmer to Farmer, milk quality is improving. The producers have changed their practices and are better controlling mastitis, managing the hygiene and timing of the milk process. This improvement of quality allows for producers to receive $0.28/liter compared to $0.25/liter previously.

 Dominican Republic
Volunteer Ben Faber demonstrates tree pruning in the DR
FTF volunteers provided hands-on training to more than 60 avocado, mango and pineapple producers and extension technicians, including training in avocado tree pruning. By pruning, the farmers train the trees so there are no low-hanging, horizontal limbs or branches that permit fruit to contact the soil, causing scarring damage and contamination with fungi. The producers believe there has been a 30% decrease in pests and diseases since Farmer to Farmer has been providing assistance.

Beekeeper Oles Basille (right) proudly shows off a gallon of his honey with FTF Country Coordinator Benito Jasmin
One beekeeper has begun including a portion of the comb in his honey jars since he now produces beautiful natural comb. As a result he has expanded his sales to a venue in Port au Prince. Demand is high, and he has bought 6 more acres of land. With a local carpenter, he has built 14 more hives.

Commercial rabbit production units (30-50 does) have increased from 1 to 10; Family commercial rabbit production units (avg. 12-16 does) have increased from 0 to 20; and Individual rabbit production units with 4-6 does have increased from 24 to 1090 and those with 2 does have increased from 7 to 600.

Monday, October 4, 2010

UN Agency Confirms the Work of Farmer to Farmer in Nicaragua

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recently published about small-scale dairy production. The study confirms that working with the dairy value chain is a way out of poverty and a sustainable income generating activity for small-scale producers.  

"Better farm management practices, expanding dairy herd sizes and increasing milk yields could easily improve smallholder labour productivity, which currently is rather low. "Dairy sector development can therefore be a potent tool for poverty reduction," the UN report said." 

"Any dairy development strategy, the FAO/IFCN study recommends, must not exclusively focus on dairy producers but improve competitiveness throughout the entire dairy production chain, targeting farmers, input suppliers, milk traders, processors, retailers and others. Creating value in every part of the chain ultimately also benefits consumers who are then able to obtain more dairy products for the same amount of money or need to spend less for the dairy products they consume."

The Farmer to Farmer Program in Nicaragua is doing just this! 

To read more see the following link.

Traditional hand-milking is still the most commonly used technique in Nicaragua.

Friday, October 1, 2010

From the Archives: Beekeeping in the Americas

Over the years, Partners of the Americas' Farmer to Farmer Program has provided training to beekeepers in many countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, including Panama, Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Antigua and Haiti. Beekeeping has many environmental, nutritional, and health benefits in addition to being a source of income for farmers and their families. Many countries in the region also have a comparative advantage in beekeeping due to climatic factors - Nicaragua can produce honey for 8 months out of the year!

Here are a few photos from the archives, combined with a recent one from our Beekeeping project in Haiti. Enjoy!
Antigua, 2003
Bolivia, 2002
Haiti, 2009

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Volunteer Offers a Different Type of Training

Volunteers are the Farmer to Farmer Program's best resources. Here you see Benito Jasmin, agribusiness leader and Partners of the Americas' Haiti FTF Coordinator (sporting the Partners' FTF T-shirt!) and FTF volunteer Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak in Argentina, where they recently attended a World Rabbit Science Association conference. Thanks to Myriam's fundraising, Benito was able to travel to Argentina and attend the conference, as well as spend time with with Apitrack and prominent queen bee raisers in Argentina. Thank you Myriam for offering training and exposure to Haitian agribusiness leaders and trainers, in Haiti and in Argentina!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Farmer to Farmer in the News

Texas A&M University - Kingsville recently published a news article about Steven Lukefahr's Farmer to Farmer trip to Haiti. Dr. Lukefahr is an expert in rabbit production and genetics and has traveled around the world to assist rabbit producers. Click here to read about his trip.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fun with Farmer to Farmer

FTF Volunteers Cheryl Diermyer and Lauren Rosen use creative means to collect footage of available dairy products in Nicaragua
Other potential captions for this photo include:
  • Was this activity outlined in my Farmer to Farmer volunteer assignment scope of work?
  • "Bananas - check. Salad - check. Woman with camera - check...?"
  • This is much more entertaining than my desk job

Read more about their unique assignment here and here.