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 FĂȘtes, 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 SKNList.com 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 blogtalkradio.com.

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 PuraPolitica.com.br. (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 molivier@partners.net or Jessie at jkalsmith@partners.net.