Thursday, December 29, 2011

Producers and Technicians Learn Post-Harvest Handling Techniques

Twenty-eight greenhouse vegetables producers in Constanza, Dominican Republic, along with technicians from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Dominican Institute of Agricultural and Forestry Research (IDIAF), completed a course entitled "Development of Management Skill in Post-Harvest Handling of Greenhouse Vegetables for Export."  The course was implemented by the Farmer to Farmer Program with the support of the Cluster de Invernaderos (Greenhouse Cluster), the Universidad Interamericana (UNICA), the Ministry of Agriculture and the IDIAF.

During the graduation ceremony, the Director of the Farmer to Farmer Program in the DR, Dr. Rafael Ledesma, urged the graduates to use the knowledge they received because they know first hand that losses due to mishandling vegetables during post-harvest significantly reduce the quality and price of product in the markets, both local and export markets.

The Farmer to Farmer Program in the DR supports the development of the greenhouse sector as a means of improving the lives of small and medium-scale farmers. By providing technical assistance, producers can improve the quality and quantity of their products and can earn more income.
Presentation of a graduation certificate to a greenhouse producer. From left to right, Ing. Jose Rafael Espaillat from IDIAF; Dr. Rafael Ledesma, Director of the DR Farmer to Farmer Program; Javier Carrasco, Constanza producer; Dr. Oleg Daugovish, Farmer to Farmer volunteer; and Ing. Kalvin Bencosme, Farmer to Farmer Field Officer.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays from the Farmer to Farmer team in Washington, DC!

Marcela Trask, Peggy Carlson, Meghan Olivier, Christine McCurdy and Samantha Mitchell
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.

Thank you and best wishes for 2012!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Partners of the Americas' Chapter News

Analyzing plant health - Guyana shadehouse project
A few of the local Partners of the Americas Chapters who collaborate with the Farmer to Farmer Program have some recent news-worthy stories.

The Guyana Chapter of Partners of the Americas, leaders of the local shadehouse project, have recently created a Chapter Facebook page to share their news with you! The page will feature their activities, especially those related to Youth Programs and Farmer to Farmer. To check out and follow their page, click here, sign into Facebook, and "thumbs up" or "like" their page.

The Haiti Chapter of Partners of the Americas is celebrating the accomplishments of chapter member and past president Guy Etienne, who was recently named one of 20 finalists in Haiti's Digicel 2011 Entrepreneur of the Year contest. Guy heads the competition's education category due to his innovations as Director of the College Catts Pressoir in Port au Prince. Guy was also instrumental in facilitating trauma counseling and related trainings for teachers shortly after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, when the Farmer to Farmer Program received special permission from USAID to send a team of three post-trauma specialists to Haiti. Congratulations and best of luck to Guy! To read more, click here (article in French).

At the College Catts Pressoir (2010): teacher training in recognizing the signs of post-disaster trauma

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Farmer to Farmer Volunteer Works with Colombian Youth

On December 2nd, the Farmer to Farmer team sent our first Colombian-bound volunteer to the rural community of Anaime, located in the central-western department of Tolima. John Rushing of Cary, North Carolina is working with la Fundación Colombianos Apoyando Colombianos (Colombians Helping Colombians Foundation), an organization designed and coordinated by Partners of the Americas with the mission of improving the quality of life of Tolima’s citizens and helping provide employment and income-generating opportunities. A specialist in food technology and dairy processing, John is working with a group of youth in Anaime to assist them with a small dairy production enterprise that they have initiated through Colombianos Apoyando Colombianos. The group plans to focus on products including condensed milk, arequipe (dulce de leche), cheese and yogurt.

Students in the processing room in Anaime.
When John met with the youth for the first time, he found that their biggest challenge is limited facilities, and that the facilities they have access to do not meet proper sanitary standards. This restricts them to an informal market. On a positive note though, the local mayor has offered a location for construction of an improved processing plant. John was able to meet with the students to begin the initial phase of the new facility by providing detailed plans and a budget, and discussing the basics of dairy processing technology. He also worked with the youth on basic product development and marketing issues.

John has also gained valuable cultural experiences. Many of the students participating in the project were graduating from high school and John was able to participate in the graduation activities and parties. And he was also in Colombia for Día de las Velitas - Day of the Little Candles - which Catholic Colombians celebrate by placing candles and paper lanterns everywhere. He had some comical experiences, including trying to ask for a hand towel in Spanish and instead he was given everything but that: hand-soap, hand-cream and more. Finally, after just taking his shirt and performing the action of drying his hands did the store clerk understand what he was asking for.

As John's trip comes to a close, there are many follow-up activities planned and the Farmer to Farmer Program hopes to continue to support the work in Tolima and elsewhere in Colombia.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mahindra's Story

Below is the story of Mahindra, one of the shadehouse growers participating in Partners of the Americas' Farmer to Farmer Program in Guyana. He recounted this compelling story when I was in Guyana this past August, and he is eager to share his good news with others! The video mentioned below can be viewed this previous post.

Mahindra had invested nearly all his family’s money in his field crops, but they failed due to weather or other conditions. He was at the end of his rope, and was worried about how he would make ends meet for his wife and 4 children. He began exploring all options, including difficult manual labor jobs and assistance for his agriculture activities. With the phone book in hand, he cold-called organizations in Georgetown, Guyana, looking for someone who could point him in the right direction to get back on his feet. 

Crops growing in Mahindra's shadehouse, August 2011
No one was able to help him, but one day he called an international agency and a person there knew Kelvin, the coordinator of Partners’ Farmer to Farmer Program in Guyana, and put them in touch. Mahindra had never heard of Partners of the Americas or the Farmer to Farmer Program. When Mahindra called, Kelvin was in the middle of an activity so he took Mahindra’s phone number and promised to call him back. The next day was the first day that Kelvin had formalized collaboration with Gavin, coordinator for Partners'  shadehouse project developed with CASRI and the Inter-american Development Bank, and supported by FTF technical assistance. 

When Gavin called Mahindra that day, he was surprised because he thought he had been politely written off by another organization. The following day Gavin visited Mahindra and within no time he was starting his shadehouse on a wing and a prayer. He had borrowed money from him neighbors to get the shadehouse running, and he and his family constructed the structure on their own to save money. Mahindra explains that he had to put blind trust in Partners and the shadehouse project. He had been skeptical, like most, of farming on raised table beds in a covered area. 

The youngest shows newest section, using palettes as low-cost materials
That was January 2011. As of August of the same year, he had developed a successful greenhouse operation growing celery, lettuce, and other crops. He is paying off his debts and he beams with pride, saying that he couldn’t even think of a sum of money that would be able to repay Partners of the Americas for what he was “given”. He says that he wasn’t given a meal for one day, but the ability to feed his family for a long time, and the technical assistance that the FTF Program provides at no cost is the most effective project. He’s expanding his operation and has started a small seedling nursery. He will become a key supplier of seedlings for this area of Guyana. 

His wife and family help with the operation where they can. He dreams to expose his children to the development of this small business and expand to other regions of Guyana in the future. He tells everyone about the project so those like him who are seeking a means to support their families, without as much risk as in-field farming, may also be exposed to the appropriate technology.

Recently, he sent his very first email ever to a team of Farmer to Farmer volunteers in Wisconsin who helped capture part of his story in a video they produced, which teaches people the basics of shadehouse growing. His relatives in the US saw the video before him and he heard that they loved it. By now, Mahindra has seen the video show in front of other farmers and stakeholders in Guyana. He says that he now feels like a part of a family – the network of shadehouse growers and FTF staff and volunteers, and he’s excited about the future. 
Four months later (Dec 2011), Mahindra's newly added palettes are full of vegetables. Mahindra (left) is pictured with Lauren Bernsten (center) of Partners' Youth Engagement Program and Ms. Myrtle Richards (right), Chairperson of the Guyana Chapter of Partners of the Americas

Friday, December 2, 2011

News from St. Kitts and Nevis

Farmer to Farmer volunteers are in the news again! Jim and Jackie Resick from Wisconsin are finishing up their trip to the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis, where they were conducting assessments and trainings related to gardening, small business development, and direct marketing with the Community Achievers Project. Click here to read the article announcing their visit, on ZIZ online news.

Monday, November 28, 2011

100 Donated Beehives to Haiti: Customs Cleared and Hives Received!

FTF Staff have fun while inspecting boxes of hive parts
Around this time last year, Partners of the Americas and its volunteers rose to the challenge of donating 100 new, quality beehives to Haiti. You can read more about the use of these hives and all those who contributed to making it happen in this previous blog post. We are happy to announce that the hives have finally completed their long journey and have arrived in the office of Makouti Agro Enterprise in Cap-Haitien!

FTF and Makouti staff discuss hive design as they construct a hive box
What does it take to ship new beehives to Haiti? Once funds were raised, the hives were ordered and shipped to a US storage site before being loaded onto a sea container. Shipment was delayed a few months due to the unrest and uncertainty around Haitian presidential elections and the run-off in early 2011. The hives were then shipped by sea container and arrived in the spring, but took some time to clear the customs process before being brought to a local storage site in Port au Prince. Towards the end of the summer, the hives were driven to the North of Haiti and have been unloaded for temporary storage in the office of Makouti Agro Enterprise. It was a long journey, but these hives will serve as a model to local carpenters, students, and beekeepers in Haiti as well as a reminder of the international partnerships developed through the Farmer to Farmer Program.

In addition to the invaluable support and donations made by FTF volunteer Virginia Webb of Mtn Honey, Mark Bennett at Dadant and Sons beekeeping supply company, and Leo Blumle and his shipping contacts, we would like to thank the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies for collaborating with Partners to arrange a fundraiser screening of the documentary Vanishing of the Bees.
Beekeeper Noe explains to FTF volunteers how his honey and hive construction activities have allowed him to begin constructing an improved home (seen in background) for his family. These hives will help his carpenters improve their design, resulting in more durable, long-lasting hives for Haiti.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

FTF Volunteers in the News

Farmer to Farmer volunteers have been in the news recently! Here are a few examples:

Dr. Henry Chan of Maylan Skincare traveled to a remote Amerindian village in Guyana to assist community members in developing new cosmetic products using crabwood tree oil. To read more about his "flex" FTF assignment, view the article here.

Spencer always takes polls about the usefulness of the information he shares
Volunteer Robert Spencer also published an article in an Alabama Cooperative Extension online publication about his recent trip to Haiti, which focused on meat quality control. Click here to view the article!

For any readers subscribed to the American Bee Journal, the November 2011 issue features a story by Rob Horsburgh about his experience as a volunteer beekeeper in Haiti. Rob traveled through our partner organization FAVACA. His efforts supported Partners' same Farmer to Farmer beekeeping projects in Haiti.

Dominican Republic Volunteer Visits Greenhouses

This past week the Dominican Republic welcomed a new volunteer, George Matthew Tokar. The focus of Matt's trip is to follow up on past assignments to provide insight in the area of post- harvesting and cold- chain management.
Matthew Tokar working with staff members of a greenhouse where peppers are grown.
He will be visiting multiple other greenhouses and packing plants this week.
He will be working with ADESJO, Fundacion Sur Futuro Inc. and two other organizations. Matt will provide training on the importance of having packing plants, and will develop an assessment study of the current situation on refrigeration after harvesting.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Women Growers in Colombia Learn New Skills

The Farmer to Farmer team was recently in Colombia and visited with a group of women from San Vicente, near Medellin, who are growing vegetables and medicinal herbs. In addition to visiting their plots, we traveled with the women to a local Foundation that provides training in Good Agricultural Practices. It was a great experience for everyone involved and FTF hopes to continue working with the women to improve their production.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

60 Seconds in Haiti

Recently, a team of video production volunteers traveled to Haiti to work with Farmer to Farmer and Makouti Agro Enterprise in creating outreach and success videos. The videos are still being produced, but the team - Sid McGregor, Clay Mason, and Brian Mehrens - compiled a quick video showing a glimpse of their time volunteering. Here it is, for your enjoyment!

60 Seconds in Haiti from Clay Mason on Vimeo.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Photos from the Field: Two Horticulture Teams in Guyana

During the month of October, the Guyana Farmer to Farmer Program welcomed two teams of volunteers who assisted different horticulture efforts. One team from the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, James Garner and Edmund Buckner, analyzed test plots during eddo (taro) harvests. They evaluated soil fertility and water quality, and the resulting differences in eddo size on each plot.

A second team from Tennessee, husband and wife Pete and Chris Wotowiec, provided ongoing technical assistance to shadehouse vegetable producers as well as a new type of training in "horticulture therapy" programs for rehabilitation programs and orphanages.

We thank our dedicated volunteers! Below are some pictures from their trips.

The Team from UAPB assists an eddo farmer from Kuru Kururu
Volunteer Pete Wotowiec poses with shadehouse farmers. Pete has conducted several trips to Guyana to help the producers over the years and he commented on the progress he observed during his recent trip
Volunteer Chris Wotowiec works with youth in Guyana. Horticultural production can serve as a valuable skill as well as a therapy for disadvantaged populations.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Female Participation in Family Farming in Paraguay

The role of women in agriculture has been studied the world over and is an important issue for the Farmer to Farmer Program as well. Two volunteers recently had the opportunity to explore this and other topics in South America. James Murren, Program Coordinator for Purdue University’s International Extension Program, and Cheryl O’Brien, gender specialist, recently concluded an 18-day assignment in southern Paraguay. Murren and O’Brien visited small family farming communities and met with staff from the University of Asunción’s College of Agriculture to identify needs on family farms and ways in which women can contribute to farm sustainability. Paraguayan women remain a highly underutilized resource in agricultural production, with limited access to training programs and low involvement in agrarian reform.

Murren and O’Brien’s research focused on the southwestern territories of Ñeembucú and Paraguarí, where they were generously hosted by the Inter-American Institute on Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA)/Paraguay and the Paraguayan Ministry of Agriculture (MOA). Based on feedback from farmers, University staff and members of IICA and MOA, they were able to identify the following agricultural needs: general training in product diversification and commercialization; assistance with business planning and commercialization for honey products; training for women in bee-keeping; and integration of gender training into agricultural workshops. Reflecting on potential spaces for female participation, Murren and O’Brien highlighted beekeeping/honey production and family gardens as specific areas to be addressed in future Farmer to Farmer volunteer assignments.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween from the Farmer to Farmer Team!

To celebrate Halloween, the FTF Team in Washington dressed up to represent our programs: a bee for our beekeeping project, a rabbit for our small animal project, a tree representing our forestry and tree crops project and a Nicaraguan producer (maybe even our Country Coordinator Ronald Blandon).  :)  Enjoy the holiday and volunteer today (costumes not required).  :)

Integrated Pest Management in Nicaragua

Recently the Farmer to Farmer Program in Nicaragua welcomed Julie Longland for a pest and disease control assignment specifically focused on Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Ms. Longland worked with potato growers and field workers in the main potato production areas of the highlands near Jinotega, Matagalpa and Estelí.  Farmer to Farmer began working with the potato growers in this area in January of this year as part of its horticulture country project.

IPM is an important area of technical assistance given that many growers use pesticides as the primary control method to managing pests and diseases.  Growers are often unaware of the safety hazards to themselves and the environment. Often times these growers don’t know the other tools that are available that may be both safer and less expensive to use.  As Ms.Longland expressed, “With all of the recommendations, it was emphasized that any positive change, even if only a small adjustment, would be a real improvement in their management and/or safety”. In addition to IPM training, Ms. Longland also provided technical assistance on pesticide safety, beneficial insects, monitoring using yellow sticky traps, storage and sanitation practices and crop rotations. 

Farmer to Farmer is planning other upcoming assignments that address the needs of IPM and pesticide safety for potato growers in Nicaragua. These assignments will build on the recommendations made by Ms. Longland and other horticulture volunteers.  Below is a link to a short article written by Julie Longland for the website of the Entomology Department at Purdue University, where she completed her undergraduate degree.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bonus Day for Donations to Help Improve Nutrition in Haiti!

Today, October 19th, is BONUS DAY on Global Giving! Donations to projects will be matched (at a 33% rate) by Global Giving - increasing the impact that your donation has in rural Haiti. Funds have already helped provide tools and seeds for the village of Lory.

Visit the "Vegetable Gardens For Improved Nutrition" project site today:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Update from the field

From Robert Spencer, FTF Volunteer:  Here I am on my third volunteer visit this year and each one is great; as I put it “each trip is friends, food, education, and fun”. Field Officers Papy and Anderson are amazing hosts and always make sure we accomplish our mission while enjoying ourselves and serving the clientele. I have been coming to Haiti since 2006 and have become so accustomed to spending time here I consider it my ‘home away from home’. My travels continue to take my colleagues and I to villages further out from Cap Haitien (in the north) including the villages of Gran Pre, Caracol, Limonade, Lory, and Port Margot. And to the southwest part of Haiti which includes the villages of Aquin, Les Cayes, Asile, and Passe bois d’orme. As we make progress with increasing the people’s knowledge base, my presentations are further developed to cover more specific areas such as: animal husbandry, food safety as it applies to organ meat (i.e. liver), zoonotic and biologic concerns, home-style rabbit meat processing, and meat quality. Animal husbandry needs to be addressed since management styles tend to be lacking, and the people do not always comprehend the correlation between animal husbandry skills and how it can enhance (or destroy) animal productivity and profitability.

All this is based on suggestions from the field officers who work closely with me and receive feedback from the clientele.My participation in outreach programs in Haiti have taught me much over the years, such as how my “style or approach” to teaching is to gain interaction from the people. This applies to my programs in Haiti and the U.S. I figure if I can get people to interact with me in a country where I do not speak the language, processing the information. At the end of each seminar I tend to ask the audience then the people are understanding three questions: (1) Do you see the relevance of the information I have shared with you, (2) Do you see the potential to implement what you have learned, and (3) Do you believe this will help feed your families and allow you to generate revenues through the sale of this meat product? Their responses are a resounding yes, followed by an intensive thank you from the lead person in each community. This approach is working well within the U.S., and I have begun utilizing these same three questions in my programmatic evaluations to better assess impact.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Wisconsin Volunteers Featured in News

Three Farmer to Farmer Volunteers from the University of Wisconsin-Stout recently appeared in a news article in the Chippewa Valley Post. Click here to learn more about their trips to Nicaragua!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rabbit Production Makes a Difference in Haiti

Rabbit producers in Haiti have made significant gains over the past 2 ½ years of the Farmer to Farmer Small Animal project, thanks to the support of Farmer to Farmer volunteers and the ongoing training and follow-up provided by Makouti Agro Enterprise. Partners of the Americas has been tracking the progress of individuals and groups receiving FTF support and based on a recent review, we have found very encouraging results which show the impact the project has had on Haitian farmers who are determined to improve their livelihoods.

Our study compared baseline data, collected primarily in 2008 and 2009, against data collected in early 2011 for 99 producers and producer groups (hosts). We found that there was a 142% increase in the number of rabbits each host owned, with an average increase per host of nearly 19 rabbits. One producer from Grand Riviere du Nord started with only 4 rabbits in late 2008 and was managing 96 rabbits by early 2011. There was a 185% increase in offspring, although mortality rates of young continues to fluctuate as new producers come on board and learn the ropes of caring for these animals. On average, hosts increased their monthly income from rabbit sales by US$19.55, and one host increased his monthly income from rabbit sales from $0 to $125 per month!

What does it mean to a small-scale rabbit producer in Haiti? Consider the story of Paul, from a mountain town in Haiti near the Dominican Republic border, who has 6 people in his family. On his small plot of land he grew coffee and beans, and in February 2009 he reported making 20,000 Haitian Gourdes (US$500) net income per year from his farming activities. That month he received 3 adult rabbits and started a FTF training program in rabbit production. Two years later in February of 2011, he had 18 adult rabbits with 60 offspring. He now earns 100,000 Haitian Gourdes (US$2,500) per year in net income from selling rabbits, has 8 clients in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and has hired an employee. He takes notes of all his sales, and he also makes compost and plants trees. 
Although an average increase in monthly income of $19.55 seems negligible to an average American family, for a Haitian family this increase can mean the difference in putting food on the table or sending your children to school. According to the World Bank, “school fees are also prohibitively expensive [to most Haitian families]—an estimated US$70 to US$80 per child each year in a country with a per capita GDP of US$480.  In many cases, parents simply cannot afford to send their children to school.” In early 2011, 74% of rabbit producers assisted by Makouti Agro Enterprise and the Farmer to Farmer Program report they can now afford the fees to send all of their children to school with money made from rabbit sales. Imagine the broader difference that can be made in Haiti when more families are managing small agro-enterprises, putting healthier food on the table, and sending all their children to school!  

Monday, September 26, 2011

Volunteer Lays Foundation for US - DR Market Linkages

Mr. Delemarre observes greenhouses at harvest time
Often times finding new markets nationally and abroad can be difficult for farmers. Farmer to Farmer has recently had the opportunity to work with a marketing specialist who has answered the call to help farmers begin to bridge this gap in the Dominican Republic.

Robert Delemarre had volunteered previously with the USAID Farmer to Famer Program in Southern Russia, and this past July and August he applied his expertise in the Caribbean by participating in an assignment with Partners of the Americas’ FTF Program in the Dominican Republic.

His schedule was unique compared to the typical FTF agenda. His first few days were spent in Florida obtaining information from import - export companies. He sought to answer the following questions: What products do the companies already import/export? Would they be willing to establish relations with the Dominican Republic? What products are the companies interested to import? What grade standards do they follow? What are the food sanitation regulations that the company requires? This information is highly important for farmers to have when seeking future relations for business because it allows them to put measures in place in advance, so they can meet standards, and because this information is not always easy for farmers to obtain.

Cold Storage Facility Tour
During the 16 days of his trip, Mr. Delemarre visited greenhouse clusters while providing multiple presentations throughout the week. While traveling from greenhouse to greenhouse, he saw beautiful crops that had much potential for profit. However, farmers often face the effects of poor postharvest infrastructure which prevent them from preserving the quality of the product by the time it reaches the market. Still, he found reason for hope.

On the 10th day of travel, Mr. Delemarre was brought to visit a brand-new, state-of-the-art Cold Storage Facility in Constanza. The building has 8 separate cold storage chambers and room for 8 more. The same owner also has another facility in Santo Domingo with another one on its way just outside Santo Domingo.

Mr. Delemarre shares information on export market standards
Along with the quality of storage facilities, Delemarre observed that many farmers were producing the same crops resulting in competition between farms. He recommended trying other crops that are in demand like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, strawberries and more, as well as working toward certification and meeting Eure-Gap or Primus Labs requirements. These certifications aim to reduce potential spread of listeria and E. coli.

The overall objective is two-fold, helping farmers supply higher quality produce to local markets and also reaching higher-value export markets. Currently there is export potential for peppers, cucumbers, pineapples, cantaloupe and honey melons, avocado, and papaya. With improved post-harvest procedures, clusters of medium- and small-scale farmers in the Dominican Republic have a great deal of opportunity to market their produce locally and also internationally.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Renewed Focus on Goat Production in Haiti

Ms. Stover visited with animal producers in the South of Haiti
The Haiti Farmer to Farmer Program recently benefited from the perspective of a specialist in goat production, Ilana Stover, from the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service. Since the program has previously focused a great deal of attention on rabbit production and beekeeping, this dedicated attention to goat production was very welcomed and needed.

In her words,"During my two-week stint in Haiti, I toured the country and met a number of different goat farmers. Until I arrived, there had not been anyone with Farmer to Farmer to handle strictly goat production. I went in with the objective of observing and discovering the major issues that farmers were facing."

Ms. Stover conducted a thorough analysis of several sites in the South and North of Haiti and made recommendations in the areas of parasite control and appropriate remedies, dairy production training, slaughter standards, breeding practices, and more. Farmer to Farmer is planning another trip this fall where a volunteer will address breeding practices and energy needs of goats, as a follow-up to her recommendations and findings. Thanks go to Ilana and the ACES for their support of Farmer to Farmer's efforts to improve goat production practices and benefit farmeres in Haiti!

Different breeds of goats are present in Haiti, some better adapted to local conditions than others
Final training session in Cap-Haitien was well-attended

Monday, September 19, 2011

"John Ogonowski" and Doug Bereuter Farmer to Farmer Program

Did you know that the USAID Farmer to Farmer Program's official name as of 2008 is the "John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer to Farmer Program"? Doug Bereuter is the Congressman who initially sponsored the Farmer to Farmer Program, and John Ogonowski was an airline pilot who lost his life in the September 11th attacks. He is memorialized in the official name of our Program, but do you know why?

This recent article in The Republic out of Indiana tells the story of Mr. Bereuter's dedication to helping farmers from other countries. It's a must-read!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

This Week in the Field

At any given time, Partners of the Americas's Farmer to Farmer volunteers are volunteering their time to assist farmers and farming groups in the Caribbean and Americas. So what's going on this week?

Bob Blohm, recent Dairy Quality volunteer, with Nicaraguan counterpart
Volunteer Sheila Dallas Katzman, communications and leadership specialist, is conducting trainings in leadership to entrepreneurs and agribusiness and community leaders in the South of Haiti.

Volunteers Jim Murren and Cheryl O'Brien, extension and gender specialists from Purdue University, are collaborating with IICA (InterAmerican Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture) and over 80 extension agents in Paraguay to improve agriculture extension practices and gender considerations in extension.

Volunteer John Hargreaves, aquaculture specialist, is working with a tilapia hatchery in Guyana to make recommendations to improve Good Agriculture Practices.

Volunteer Craig MacFarland is conducting a workshop with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Jarabacoa Forestry School in the Dominican Republic to assist park staff and forestry students in the areas of public use of protected areas, trail building and park management.

Monday, September 12, 2011

From California to Haiti: FTF Volunteer's Work Featured in News

The San Francisco Bay Area Times-Herald featured an article yesterday which highlights the work and dedication of veterinarian and Farmer to Farmer volunteer Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak. Together with the advice of volunteer specialists like Myriam and the local expertise of FTF field staff and Makouti Agro Enterprise leaders, data indicates that the average individual rabbit producer collaborating with Farmer to Farmer has increased his/her annual net income (from rabbit production activities) by US$817, and 74% of rabbit producers collaborating with Makouti Agro Enterprise are now able to send all of their children to school with income from rabbit sales. For a low-income Haitian farmer and his/her family, that translates into an improved livelihood and hope for the future.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Vegetable Gardens For Improved Nutrition In Haiti

Help support Partners' horticulture activities in Haiti! Donations provide tools, seeds and training to rural families. Click the image above to read more!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Peace Corps Volunteers Continue Spirit of Service through Farmer to Farmer

Students in El Cerron learn about seeds, soil, and environmental protection
This past month Partners’ Farmer to Farmer Program had the opportunity to send certified forester Glen Juergens and his wife Patricia Juergens, in collaboration with the Sustainable Harvest International and their local counterpart FUCOHSO (Fundación Cosecha Sostenible Honduras), to Honduras to work with local communities and families to provide assistance in reforestation, nutrition education, and environmental education.

 The Juergens have been to Honduras multiple times over the years, beginning with the first time they met during their Peace Corps service in the country in the 1970s.

“We thoroughly enjoyed working with individuals, families, and FUCOHSO employees which reminded us of the time when we were PCVs. The highlight of the trip for us was being able to take a few days after the work was completed with FUCOHSO and travel to some of the communities we worked at as PCVs. We were delighted to find that all of the individuals we visited remembered us and many were still actively growing crops and practicing soil conservation techniques they learned when we first began working with them.”

Patricia discusses health and hygiene with women
During their two-week assignment with Farmer to Farmer, Glen and Patricia worked with over 6 communities and collaborated with current Peace Corps Volunteers in Honduras. Glen’s activities focused on advising reforestation projects, including developing ideas for bringing water to seedlings and crop, assisting with developing a seedling nursery, collecting soil and seeds, and teaching children how important it is to preserve the forest around the community. Patricia spent her time alongside the women in the communities and in orphanages, showing different ways to prepare different products, collecting recipes, discuss upcoming activities, health and hygiene, and more.

Mr. and Mrs. Juergens recommend continuing workshops on tree inspection; reforestation and watershed protection; and health, hygiene, and recipes in order to improve livelihoods and help the families move closer to becoming independent small businesses who work closely together. They commented that “During the two weeks we worked in the communities with the families who work with FUCOHSO we found families highly motivated to learn how to improve their health and living conditions and increase their incomes by using best agricultural practices learned from the FUCOHSO technicians and staff.”

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Update on Nicaragua continued

While Bob Blohm worked on the milk quality stage of the dairy value chain, volunteer Dr. Allen Pederson had the opportunity to work with veterinarians, technicians, producers and agronomists. His purpose of travel was to teach ultrasound pregnancy diagnosis, c- section procedures, and to convey that there are multiple methods for pregnancy diagnosis.

Dr. Pederson worked with a group of beginners to advanced students, starting the program by determining “why” a C- section would need to be performed, and finishing with follow-ups after performing two C- sections on the second day. Throughout his time in Nicaragua Dr. Pederson saw a strong willingness from the students to learn and expand upon the knowledge they have already acquired.

Update on Nicaragua Dairy Project

The cows of Nicaragua in the past couple of months have been busy with a couple of U.S. volunteers: Bob Blohm and Allen Pederson. While both worked closely with the farmers and cows their objectives couldn’t have been any more related. 

Bob Blohm from Pennsylvania spent his time from June 26 to July 10 monitoring and providing suggestions to improve the quality of the milk from stage one, milking the cow, to the final stages at collection/ transfer stations. 

One of the largest problems with milk production is trying to keep milk from being contaminated with bacteria that causes milk to turn “sour.” This often occurs when there is cross contamination between the milk and other objects, or if milk is not kept at a recom-mended temperature. During his time in Nicaragua, Blohm was able to pick out areas where this might occur.
Some of these possible contamination risks were cloth strainers and Milk holding containers not being cleaned properly or thoroughly, allowing for the formation of milk stone. One handy “trick” Blohm taught farmers was to look for milk stone formation with the use a UV flashlight. When the light is passed over the inside of the canister the milk residue turns a bright green color. Milk stone formation is hard for farmers to clean since an acid wash is used, and cleaning of the containers is often performed by the haulers.

However, Mr. Blohm has seen willingness from the community to accept new ideas and methods to continue the improvement and future growth of the Nicaraguan dairy industry.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Guyana Program in the News

Partners' FTF Staff examine drip irrigation tape in shadehouse
The Guyana Times International has picked up a story about a recent project monitoring visit to the Guyana Farmer to Farmer Program. The article gives some good information about progress on the Guyana Partners of the Americas Chapter's shadehouse project, which Farmer to Farmer volunteers have supported with technical assistance and production of training videos. The title is misleading since this was not a visit from Mississippi, but the articles gives some interesting information nonetheless!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Volunteer Robert Spencer in the News

Robert Spencer has been a strong supporter and returning volunteer with Partners of the Americas' Farmer to Farmer Program in Haiti. With each visit, he works with Makouti Agro Enterprise, a Haitian agribusiness, as well as students, producers, and processors to increase knowledge of food safety procedures and meat quality assurance in different regions of Haiti. Check out this Alabama Cooperative Extension article about his July 2011 visit to Haiti!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Project Update from Guyana

Lettuce produced through shadehouse hydroponic production. The raised beds and covered structure provides protection from extreme weather and flooding, and the sand and paddy shell substrate is an easily-accessible growth medium.
In the past several days that I’ve been here in Guyana visiting Partners’ Farmer to Farmer Projects and meeting with program partners, I’ve heard so many stories from producers and seen so many unique sights that it’s hard to choose what to feature in this blog post. Since my last visit in April 2010, there have been many changes as a result of collaborative efforts between Partners of the Americas and other local and international groups including IICA (Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture), GTIS (Guyana Trade and Investment Support), the Guyana Chapter of Partners of the Americas’ shadehouse project, and more.

Among the successes that stand out in my mind after visiting a selection of project sites are the 28 (and growing) shadehouses that are now in operation, allowing people to grow lettuce, radishes, celery, pakchoy, and other vegetables with limited risk of crop failure and in spite of poor soil; the newly-revived Guyana Apiculture Society and its beekeepers who are showing great energy and determination to increase honey production and their outreach efforts with ongoing support from FTF; the impact that the FTF-produced training and success videos has had in spreading the word about low-cost agricultural technologies for hydroponic vegetable production and, of course, the personal stories of success told by the farmers themselves.

With several more field visits remaining, there is more for me to see. I hope to feature these stories on the blog in the future, and for now I will leave you with some photos.
Third generation beekeeper Ravi Rajkumar cuts honeycomb from one of his hives. His Africanized bees forage on mangroves and are largely resistent to pests and disease. He is already adopting recommendations to improve honey production and food safety from 2 FTF volunteers.

Beeswax bowl created in a training with FTF Volunteer Virginia Webb.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Volunteer Spots Improvements in Nicaragua

Horticulture volunteer, Tom Syverud (see our blog post about his news article!), recently returned from Nicaragua where he provided technical support to local Farmer to Farmer hosts in existing small-scale garden projects. The project seeks to improve horticultural production, processing and marketing in rural areas. During his trip, Syverud made recommendations for improving vegetable production including newer cultivation, conservation and marketing techniques. Mr. Syverud has made trips to Nicaragua previously for similar purposes, and he remarked on the improvements he observed in the country since he last visited, six years ago.

"Although I did not return to all the same places, I sense an improvement in the knowledge level and interest in small-scale vegetable garden production...I think the whole country has shown improvement; the roads, the building, the stores, the restaurants, and the airport...The economy is, in general, better too, although there are still many unemployed, under-employed and poor people...Nicaraguans, however, are a friendly, resilient people and I believe will continue to make progress."

To find out more about the Farmer to Farmer Program and how you can volunteer, please visit the rest of this blog or the Partners of the Americas website.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Flexible" Opportunities with Farmer to Farmer!

FTF Flex volunteer Dick Waybright consults with dairy farmers in Brazil
Did you know that the 2008 - 2013 Farmer to Farmer program has an option for "flexible" assignments? These "flex" assignments are designed to give the program the flexibility to respond to requests for support from ongoing activities in areas outside of our established projects, or in some cases to explore new opportunities, related to agriculture and environment. Flex volunteers can travel to many countries throughout the world. Are you a part of an ongoing international agriculture project that could use some technical assistance? Maybe you could be the next volunteer to travel under a flex assignment!

Examples of past flexible assignments are described on this blog - click "Flex" on the list of labels to the right to read relevant stories of what FTF volunteers are accomplishing throughout the hemisphere! From veterinarian to video producer, GIS technician to graphic designer, a wide array of specialists can contribute to improving agricultural development and environmental protection through Flex.

More detailed information is available here on Partners of the Americas' website. Contact us to learn more if you are an American interested in flex opportunities to support your international agriculture or environmental project, or if you represent an organization or university, from a developing country, who would like to receive technical assistance from a US volunteer specialist.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Farmer to Farmer in the News

The Farmer to Farmer program has been featured in a few news pieces recently! Volunteer Gary Hickman was featured in the online Dominican paper Hoy. The article shares his view on the greenhouse horticulture industry in the Dominican Republic, especially as it relates to exporting to the US and competing with Mexico. Click here to read the full article in Spanish.
Pictured above, a hillside in the Dominican Republic,
growing plantains and beans.
Also related to Farmer to Farmer in the Dominican Republic, The Adirondack Enterprise published an article about the relationship that has formed between Paul Smith’s College and the Escuela de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (School of Environment and Natural Resources) in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic. First introduced through their involvement in the Farmer to Farmer program, college officials from both schools are hoping to exchange knowledge about forest management and increase ecotourism in the Dominican Republic. Read more about this unique new relationship here.

In Guyana, The Guyana Chronicle Online recently ran an article highlighting a hydroponics project implemented by the Partners of the Americas’ Guyana chapter [watch our Guyanese hydroponics and shadehouse success story here]. The Chronicle takes notice of the popularity hydroponics seems to be gaining as a horticultural technique. Since its introduction in the 70’s, hydroponics has allowed more people to grow their own vegetables throughout the country in spite of poor soil. In Nicaragua, horticulture volunteer Tom Syverud was featured in his local Wisconsin paper, The Daily Press, describing the purpose behind his trip and his motivations for going:
[Gardening] just kind of comes second nature to us. We have the chance to read so much and there are different gardening shows on TV. We have tons of information. None of that is available down there...I think it’s really important for us to help other people. I feel really grateful that I can do that."
-Syverud from The Daily Press July 2, 2011
Additionally, avid Farmer to Farmer volunteer and “Ag Guru” Dean Wheeler was featured in his local paper as well. The Davis Enterprise interviewed Wheeler, who has over 50 years of agricultural experience and 14 Farmer to Farmer volunteer trips under his belt. When asked about his future with the program, Wheeler said, “I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. I’d like to do it twice a year, if possible.” Wheeler has traveld to the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua with Partners of the Americas’ Farmer to Farmer program. Read the full article here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Machete Verde and Interview with FTF-Nicaragua Volunteer

While in Nicaragua, I met a man who gave me the electronic file for Machete Verde, a manual in Spanish that has 16 chapters about appropriate technology transfer. Please contact me if you'd like electronic copies of the manual. I also posted my homemade videos to my youtube page. Those can be found at Included in the playlist are 3 videos about Camoapa Dairy: Bob Blohm (volunteer), Daniel Ingram (Farmer to Farmer Field Officer), and the Masiguito Cooperative Dairy Processing Plant. Farmer to Farmer Nicaragua is looking for someone to help the processing plants diversify their cheese varieties.

Here is one example of the videos mentioned above - an interview with Wisconsin volunteer Bob Blohm!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Trying New Techniques in the Dominican Republic

Organic greenhouses are off to a good start in Rio Limpio in the North West Mountains of the Dominican Republic! This is Rio Limpio’s first year of production and the yields are looking high and the fruit quality is top notch. They are trying, for the first time, techniques such as crop rotation as a way to naturally feed the soil and also to control diseases. Currently they are growing peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, and melons in the same greenhouses. This is a very profitable way of growing because they aren’t saturating the market with an abundance of just one crop. They have a wonderful seedling production room and are applying non synthetics at early stages of growth to prevent any diseases and help prevent infestations of pests. This is a new way of thinking in the Dominican where the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers have, up to now, been the only answer. I wish them success in their efforts not only in a good harvest but in the continuation of integrating new ideas. They can be a great testing ground and will soon be able to provide data about organic methods as well as teaching tools to other greenhouses. Little by little small changes can be made to the environments of the greenhouses to improve the quality of production, yield, soil structure, and the health of the workers as well as the consumers. While the immediate change from commercial to organic is impossible to do this late in the operation of most of the greenhouses, the hope is that small changes and new techniques will ensure a step in the direction of a greenhouse that is more naturally sustainable and produces more profit than loss.

FTF Volunteers Help Haitian Coffee Reach US Markets

Yves Gourdet stops to pose for a photo with some coffee "cherries", during his 2010 FTF Trip to Haiti which focused on coffee marketing
Two of Partners' Farmer to Farmer volunteers have taken the initiative to help quality Haitian coffee reach export markets in the US, through their social enterprise called HaitiCoffee. The access to higher value markets allows the farmers to reinvest profits into their communities and businesses so that they might reach even more local and international markets, and improve their livelihoods. Check out their website at!

Long-time Partners volunteer Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak realized the potential while traveling to Haiti with Farmer to Farmer and working with Makouti Agro Enterprise. After recruiting and teaming up with FTF volunteer and businessman Yves Gourdet, originally from Haiti, the two have recently launched a successful enterprise. Below is an update from Myriam. I'm sure our past FTF-Haiti volunteers will be happy to read about this progress. Spread the word, try to coffee for yourself, and see if your local coffee shop will carry it!

"It has been quite sometime since I updated all of you on the progress of our coffee project. Things have been really moving along. In February of this year Yves and I incorporated his company Haiti Coffee and became business partners. In April, we successfully received our first shipment. Importing was a challenge, but thanks to the hard work of Papy and Makouti we found a way to streamline the process. Next time will be much easier. We have sold close to 2000 pounds of the green coffee so far across the USA. It is being very well received. We have also been roasting (with Humboldt Bay Coffee Company) and selling some online at The end consumers are raving about the coffee."
- From an email by Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sneak Peek: Veterinarian Trainings in Haiti

These two photos provide a preview to trainings conducted by a team of US veterinarians together with Haitian veterinarians, students, and rabbit producers. The team of 3 from California visited farms and conducted workshops in late June, in the North and also in Grand Boulage, a mountain community between Port au Prince and Mirebalais. More photos and details to come!

Bonnie Loghry trains a Haitian veterinarian to listen to the heart and lungs of a rabbit

Andremene, one of the most successful rabbit producers in Grand Boulage, tries out a stethoscope. Income from Andremene's rabbit micro-enterprise has allowed her to support her family and send her children to school.