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.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Volunteer with Farmer to Farmer!

From dairy cattle and bees to extension education and product development, Partners' Farmer to Farmer Program currently has several open volunteer opportunities in Nicaragua, Haiti, Guyana, and the Dominican Republic. The program covers costs for transportation, lodging, meals and other travel-related costs. Volunteers for Nicaragua and the DR will ideally have some proficiency in Spanish. Contact us today if you have any questions!

In the words of recent FTF volunteers:
"I look forward to hearing from the friends I made in Guyana whether the message is of a technical nature or just a hello. My Farmer to Farmer experience was a positive one due to the friendship shown to me by Shaun Francis, Kelvin Craig as well as every Ministry of Agriculture official and grower I met." - Dan Egel, Guyana
"My volunteer assignment was a rewarding personal experience. Rafael and Juan were very accommodating and handled any issues that came up." -Rhett Farrell, FTF DR
"Bob and I cannot thank enough Ronald and the Haitian Farmer to Farmer staff for their watching out for us during our stay. We were in good hands. We are also thankful for the Haitian beekeepers we met. They were a real encouragement to us." - Tim Schuler, FTF Haiti 
"I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent in Nicaragua, and I am extremely appreciative that I was able to participate in the Farmer to Farmer program. Daniel Ingram was a wonderful companion and guide on my trip. He made me feel welcome, invited me to spend time with his absolutely wonderful family, and spent time with me outside of the work hours. Almost all Nicaraguans that I encountered were also friendly and welcoming. Nicaragua is a beautiful country with a wonderful culture (and great food!)." - Chase McNulty, FTF Nicaragua

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How Much Is A Picture Worth?

Benito and "Little Benito"
As the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words." But this picture represents much more than words to this little boy and to the staff and volunteers of Partners' Farmer to Farmer Program. In this photo, pictured are Benito Jasmin, FTF Haiti Country Coordinator, and the child of one of the farmers who receives training through the Farmer to Farmer Program in Haiti. The boy's school fees are paid with the income his family receives from raising rabbits.

So what is that worth? In Benito's words, his whole life depends on it. In Haiti, the vast majority of schools (around 92%) are private and children cannot go to school unless they pay the required fees. With the poverty that is so rampant in Haiti, this means that nearly the majority of children are not enrolled in school. As written in a July 2010 report from the US Institute of Peace
"According to the 2002–03 education census cited by the World Bank, only 8 percent of Haitian schools were public, while approximately 92 percent were privately owned and financed, meaning they were tuition-based in most cases. Because of Haiti’s extreme poverty, most schools were unaffordable and therefore inaccessible to the majority of families. In fact, only 55 percent of children aged six to twelve were enrolled in school, and less than one-third of those enrolled reached the fifth grade."
Following the earthquake and the financial strain it has put on Haitian families, we can only imagine how low enrollment rates must be today, not to mention the fact that many schools have been destroyed. The chance to go to school means a lot for this little boy, his future, and the future of Haiti. He must understand the opportunity he is given to a certain extent as well - after all, he wants to legally change his name to "Benito"! And of course, in addition to what he learns in school, "little Benito" has learned a great deal about rabbit raising along the way.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Photos from the Field: Volunteers in Action!

Farmer to Farmer volunteers, Cheryl and Lauren, continue to work hard to put together a video clip that promotes the consumption of local dairy products and educates the audience on nutrition. The volunteers are interviewing farmers, dairy cooperative managers, school teachers and others to truly capture the local situation and best attract the viewers. Meanwhile, another Farmer to Farmer volunteer, Kshinte continues to visit schools and support the "Si a la Leche" campaign with educational games and promotional activities. Please see below the volunteers "in action" photos.

Lauren, Cheryl and Daniel (FTF field officer) edit through the videos to put together a great promotional piece.
Thanks to the volunteers for their filming and editing equipment!

Kshinte and the Director of the Solingalpa School in Matalgalpa work together to support the dairy campaign and educate the students on nutrition. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Volunteer Team Carries out "Non-Traditional" Assignment in Nicaragua

Kshinte teaches children about nutrition in milk
Earlier this week, two volunteers traveled from Wisconsin to Nicaragua to fill a "non-traditional" Farmer to Farmer assignment: video production. They are collaborating with another volunteer focusing on nutrition. In case you're wondering what video production has to do with farming, read on.

Even though Nicaragua is the country in the region of Central America with the most exports of dairy products, generally has the biggest cattle, and the most land potential to raise cattle, it is still the country that consumes the least amount of dairy products. According to official information the annual local consumption of milk is 75 liters/person in contrast to 220 liters/person in Costa Rica.

In the urban and rural sectors of Nicaragua there has been a decrease in the consumption of dairy products. Nicaraguans have changed their habits and now consume more sodas which do not have the same nutritional qualities as dairy products. It has been calculated that in Nicaragua for each liter of milk consumed, eight liters of soda are consumed. Furthermore, at times when milk production is at its highest there can be an abundance of local milk.

Volunteers Cheryl Dyermier and Lauren Rosen are helping to address this gap by creating a video consumption campaign in collaboration with local dairy farmers and organizations. They are working together with volunteer Kshinte Brathwaite, who specializes in nutrition and is a repeat volunteer to Nicaragua. Here are some photos from their trip so far, as they visit farms, schools, and organizations to gather information and footage as well as teach about the nutritional properties of dairy products.
Children observe calf getting milk straight from the source!
Sampling local dairy products - even more delicious with a fun straw

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Scaling Up Successful Projects: The Story of Rabbits in Dourmond

Identifying forage for rabbits in Dourmond
Partners of the Americas' small animal project in Haiti is growing rapidly, and many communities in Central and Southern Haiti now have the beginnings of a successful micro-enterprise. Below is the example of Dourmond, one of the most recent communities to receive rabbits. I expect that it won't be long before we begin hearing their stories as we do in other communities, where Haitians young and old are able to pay for their education through their profits from rabbit production. I hope to share some of those stories in later posts.

New rabbit cages arrive

Even though rabbits may "breed like rabbits," a new project takes time and strategic thought. The project in Dourmond began in January 2009 with a feasibility study conducted by three individuals who are, collectively, leaders in Partners' Haiti Farmer to Farmer Program, Makouti Agro Enterprise, Devils Gulch Educational Services, and the Patricia Sullivan Haitian Outreach Foundation. Dourmond turned out to have an appropriate supportive environment such as enough forage foods and motivation to raise rabbits, and the Foundation later supplied 30 cages to 30 women who make up the Association Femmes Chretiennes de Dourmond.

The rabbit training is well-attended
Fast forward to April 2010, when Makouti and FTF staff built the cages in preparation for a training which took place in May. The training was conducted by FTF volunteer Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak, together with Makouti and "Racine," a successful rabbit raiser from another community where the project is active, Grand Boulage. As Myriam describes, "It was a real pleasure to watch Racine train the women. He has become very adept and confident at teaching rabbit production. We had only one rabbit to work with."

Once the new producers were trained, they received their first rabbits in July. A month later in August, I was able to visit Dourmond and witness first hand the excitement and progress in this community. The leader of the women's association (pictured below) confidently told us about the appropriate forages to feed the rabbits, surprising our local staff with her memory of each specific plant. The rabbits had offspring, and our staff explained that the relatively low mortality rates of the first baby rabbits indicate a beginning that is likely to be even more successful than that of the other more established and successful rabbit projects in other communities. With continued assistance, we hope that the families and children of this community will benefit long-term in the ways that others have.

Rabbit hutches are in place and full of rabbits, including offspring (August 2010)

Young residents of Dourmond with Evaluation Specialist Volunteer Kerry Zaleski