Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thank you

I would like to thank Meghan Oivier, Benito Jasmin, Papy, Anderson, and Charlie for insuring my visit was so enjoyable. My wife Sydne Spencer for her support. And Sibyl Wright with USDA Food Safety Inspection Service for her moral support and making sure we had meat thermometers for seminars on food safety trainings. I strongly believe rabbit production and food security have a future in Haiti.

Beauty in Haiti

Despite the situations in Haiti there is much beauty, and people who are strong in culture, spirit, and vision.

Visit to Port Au Prince

My last Saturday was spent in Port Au Prince, visiting with Benito, discussing my visit, reports, and opportunities. Benito is truly a person with great visions, and can make them happen. Our afternoon was spent with a tour of the earthquake damage in town. I took so many pictures and saw so much devastation, it was overwhelming. Truly tragic. One photo shows one of the largest and oldest Christian Churches in Port Au Prince, or at least what remains. Other photo shows while much clean-up has taken place there is still more to be done. Final photo shows street vendors set-up despite precarious buildings.

Memories of Haiti

It's faces like these that make memories for a volunteer

Creole Food

Photos showing my wonderful lunch consisting of spaghetti en sauce Creole with vienna sausages, juice, water, coconut milk, and good company

Friday, May 21, Cap Haitien

Final days of visits to Cap Hatien are always a mixed bag; want to stay and continue with work, ready to go home for a while. After the excitement of yesterday's seminar with all the interaction I was inspired to continue, but knew it was time to focus on reporting. Spent much of the morning working on documentation while sitting in the garden out behind Makouti's office. I was productive and enjoying a relaxing morning. See group photo. Was treated to a home cooked lunch while there, prepared by Makouti's marketing person. What a cook! The afternoon allowed us time to visit the Tourist Market near Hotel Christophe, am truly amazed at all the art and talented artist.

Thursday May 20, Northern Haiti

Was a very rewarding day. Participated in a follow-up seminar addressing the marketing chain, potential for hazardous points of contact, and meat quality assurance. Used a flow chart to illustrate critical control points, potential issues, and opportunities for improvement for food chain. We recruited experts from various areas to discuss their perspective, observations, and concerns. Areas targeted included the meat processing facilities, farmers markets, and restaurants. Not only was it insightful to me, but the audience was better able to understand how each area played a role in the marketing chain, potential concerns, and meat quality assurance. Feedback from the audience was very positive! Picture shows Spencer illustrating from farm to fork, Papy translating

Wednesday May 19, Northern Haiti

What an interesting day. Visited the local abattoir to see how cattle, goats, and hogs are processed. In addition to standard cuts of meats, the liver, kidneys, and heart are used as meat products. Forgot that value-added products such as feet, head, intestines are also utilized as meat products. On the way back from the abattoir we captured this picture of carcasses being hauled from processing facility to Farmers Market, distance of about six kilometers. Note process improvement, the carcasses are covered with plastic to protect them from dust and flies. Believe it or not I had no problem eating dinner that night.

Monday May 17, Cap Haitien

Had an adventurous day; Papy and I went on a walk-about in Cap Haitien, visited the Farmers Market, Super Mart grocery store, and hospital. I have been to the Farmers Market before but am always amazed at number of blocks it covers and variety of items for sale. Saw fresh fruits and vegetables, a variety of meats and seafood, clothes, household supplies, hardware, and much, much more. We visited the local hospital to check on a earthquake victim from Port Au Prince that was still recovering, she was doing fine. The visit the grocery store was impressive, it was clean, well stocked, and had an array of products not easily found in smaller stores.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Nicaragua: Rotational Grazing and Electric Fences

Farmer to Farmer volunteer Brian Stone carried out a rotational dairy grazing and electrical fence utilization assignment in Nicaragua. A few photos of pastures and cattle in the Boaca Region of Nicaragua can be seen on Brian's website: click here! Introduction of electric fences at rural dairy farms can really improve production and the over-all livestock management.

As Brian noted, "Nicaraguan producers could benefit greatly with the adoption of electric fence utilization. The implementation of grazing practices allowed by the flexibility of electric fence would result in more efficient use of forages, reducing labor needed for hand harvesting forages so that labor time could be used for other purposes to improve livestock and forage management."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Blog from Robert Spencer, Volunteer in Haiti

Writing from Haiti, food safety volunteer Robert Spencer sent us some information and photos from his first week to post on the blog. Below are a few excerpts. It's always interesting to follow the footsteps of a Farmer to Farmer volunteer while they are in country!

This is my third visit; first October 06, second April 08. Spent my first Monday (afternoon of 10th) getting settled into Hotel Prince, and a short amount of time with Papy and Charlie discussing progress made and agenda for upcoming week. Hotel offers beautiful view of the bay, stunning abundance of flowers, truly fascinating accommodations, and very quiet location. This converted hotel was originally the home of Pauline Bonaparte, sister of Napoleon Bonaparte. See photo (View of bay from hotel)

[Next day]  Five farm visits that day to review progress being made, rabbitries scattered across surrounding areas of Cap Haitian (CAP). Was truly impressive; rabbits at all facilities in good body condition, cages and areas under them clean and in good shape, rabbits fairly well protected in all cases. A good time was had by all, made sure to communicate qualities found in each facility so farmer would know their efforts were appreciated. See photo (Successful rabbit producers, FTF Field Officer Gerard Michel "Papy" Joseph, and Charlie - driver and collaborator)

[Next day] We visited three rabbitries; reason for less is they were scattered in areas remotely located from CAP. When I asked Benito why some of these locations were scattered, he explained his strategy is based on spreading production facilities to show various communities opportunities in rabbit production. They select key individuals who show interest and initiative, help them begin small and simple which allows them to prove themselves over a period of time. If they prove themselves and become successful they are rewarded with a “state of the art” rabbitry, more cages and rabbits, and expected to pay back the provisions by selling back so many rabbits a month. Based on the producer pride and enthusiasm demonstrated it is working. I was really impressed. See photo (model rabbitry made available for outstanding producer's use)

[A few days later] Workshop began on time (9 am) at local educational facility; people were there before we arrived, ready to learn about food safety. My first component was designed to be a “wake-up call” to those involved in the food industry from farm to fork. It addressed the need for food safety within Haiti’s food industry, the role it would play, the challenges associated with implementation, and the benefits and economic impact. At first I was concerned there would be no or little interaction, following the information shared. To my surprise there was a lengthy interaction that went on for just short of an hour. Like most Haitian discussions it covered a broad array of issues including meat quality assurance, environmental issues, government support, economics (including supply, demand, value-added, and etc.), marketing, and etc. The interaction was quite impressive. At the end I asked the audience if they agreed with what had been presented, and did they see the role of food safety to the future of Haiti and they readily agreed to its significance and potential impact benefiting Haiti and its people. See photo (Spencer speaking to audience about the role of heat in cooking food thoroughly - meat thermometer in hand)

Myriam did an outstanding job of covering five primary zoonotic diseases that should be of concern regarding meat quality and food safety. (see photo) Her approach was outstanding as it addressed each disease, the fundamental factors in each disease, symptoms, treatment, prevention, and other relevant details. At the end she covered general Best Management Practices (BMP) to reduce or minimize risks associated with seven primary zoonotic diseases. She also took the time to address food borne disease and illness. Outstanding job, people were really impressed! My second presentation addressed Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) as a potential program to be implemented that would benefit the Food Industry within Haiti.

During my first week I have been amazed to see the amount of progress that has taken place resulting from the past four years of efforts and support from all involved. Partners of the Americas, Farmer to Farmer, Benito Jasmin, and his associates are to be commended.

Hog on a Hog - Food Safety in Haiti

Food safety/Meat quality assurance volunteer Robert Spencer has his work cut out for him, but at least he has a sense of humor. We received this "hog on a hog" photo from him as he conducts food safety trainings in Haiti. One may consider it process improvement, compared to the "hog in a wheelbarrow" photo taken by FTF staff in March: the pig is partially covered and has faster means of transportation. I will post these photos in a smaller format, and if you don't have a weak stomach, click on them to make them larger.

Stay tuned for updates (and nicer photos) from Robert's trip soon!
                                       "Hog on a Hog"                                    "Hog in a Wheelbarrow" 

Monday, May 17, 2010

FTF volunteer blogs from Santo Domingo, before heading out the field!

This is the first time I have tried blogging! I arrived in Santo Domingo airport on May 15. Rafael was there waiting for me even though the flight was 20 minutes early. Yesterday, May 16, was election day. Most businesses were closed due to the elections. I spent most of the day walking through the old colonial city of Santo Domingo - the oldest city settled by Europeans in the western hemisphere. The architecture is amazing!! Today, May 17, is a holiday because it is the day after elections. Many businesses are still closed. The tropical sunshine is fantastic!!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Volunteer's blog and Food Safety in Haiti

Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak, a Farmer to Farmer volunteer currently in Haiti, is blogging as she travels and checks in on the rabbit producing communities. Click here to read about how her trip is going!

Myriam has traveled to Haiti numerous times, both with FTF and on her own. She and her family were in Haiti during the earthquake and this is her first time back following the quake. Her dedication is admirable.

At the moment, she and another FTF volunteer, Robert Spencer, are giving a training seminar on animal diseases and food safety. Our Haitian staff has dubbed it a "wake up call" meeting, since Haitian producers, individually and collectively, will need to improve food safety and consumer trust in order to improve business. Myriam has raised a great deal of funds to help farmers with start-up entrepreneurial activities, and Robert leveraged a donation of 40 meat thermometers with help from the USDA.

The above photo, from 2009, shows Myriam discussing rabbit production with a successful producer in Quartier Morin, Northern Haiti.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Not all Farmer to Farmer Volunteers are Farmers

The Farmer to Farmer Program often sends specialists in business management, marketing, graphic design, website design, leadership development, organizational management, and more! See the post below for other examples of nontraditional assignments open in Nicaragua.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Volunteer in Nicaragua!

Partners of the Americas is currently looking for skilled volunteers for the Farmer to Farmer Dairy program in Nicaragua. At the production level, a Cattle Reproduction Specialist is needed, and at the marketing level the following are needed: Video Production Specialist, Dairy Products Promotional Specialist, Packaging and Labeling Specialist, and Dairy Products Marketing Specialist. Volunteers will work with small and medium - scale dairy producers in rural areas of Nicaragua.
If you are interested in volunteering, please send your resume/CV to

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Kentucky Partners Send Animal Science Volunteer to Ecuador

Animal Science Specialist Jonathan Tubbs recently returned from a Farmer to Farmer trip to Ecuador, where he contributed to an ongoing exchange of technical assistance between Kentucky and Ecuador in the areas of animal health and milk production. Below are some excerpts from his trip report and photos from the trip. 
Photo: Jonathan and his Ecuadorian counterpart manually milking cow
During the recent visit to the Chaco and Tungurahua regions of Ecuador, several implications of previous projects were noticeable, mostly from the most recent visit by Dr. Prather or Morehead State in 2008. During his visit, Dr. Prather and a few pre-vet students conducted seminars centered on animal health, vaccination protocols and procedures, and worked with the Mobile Veterinary Services clinic. Since that time, the farmers and agriculture leaders in these regions have been working toward implementing these practices with some success.

[A] Radio interview [was] done concerning agriculture in the region. Questions included concerns of global warming, impacts of cattle production, and goals for the project. Milton Hugo’s farm is interested to see how sustainable cattle farming is starting.

“One of the problems that contributes [to] global warming is the cutting of trees for beef production, and because [of] the lack of nutrients in the pasture the farmer needs to keep cutting more and more forest, and so oxygen machines such as trees are no longer in rainforest areas” [quoted from Miguel Castanel, long time volunteer and Kentucky-
Ecuador POA Orient Coordinator in the jungle region of Ecuador). With the system that Dr. Richard is establishing for improving nutrition in cattle he was able to improve the use of the grass areas from 1 cow per 2,54 acres up to 4 cows per 2,54 acres. He is using a mixture of local grasses with a high content of protein and sugar cane and feeding the cattle in stables. This method has applied for the carbon credits program and 10 farms running with this program are receiving the benefits. 
             Photo: mobile clinic  in action
The biggest accomplishment of the first trip of this project was the positive response, excitement, and anticipation that were received from all of those involved, but more importantly from the farmers. Many of the community leaders were grateful and look forward to the progress that we hope to achieve, but it was the farmers who were truly excited about a program that was focused on helping them achieve higher production on their farms. This is perhaps the most important aspect of the program that we aim at establishing. Without the farmers support and willingness to participate, nothing will be achieved.
Photo: local cheese being packaged