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:  http://www.companeroscafe.com/

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