Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Qualities of Effective FTF Volunteers

Partners of the Americas' Farmer to Farmer Program recently benefited from a thorough qualitative evaluation conducted by a specialized team from the University of Wisconsin-Extension Program Evaluation Unit. We are eager to share results once the full report is complete. For now here are some excerpts that we thought our readers would find interesting: responses from field staff and beneficiaries (or "hosts") on the common qualities of effective volunteers.

Qualities of effective volunteers
Hosts were extremely pleased with the volunteer support they had received to date. Host and staff alike agreed on a number of qualities that made volunteer assignments successful, including: simple; flexible; patient; professional; interactive; encouraging; participatory; skilled to work with ‘ordinary’ people; open-minded; does not “direct” or “order”; good communicator; good listener; someone who does not bring “old thoughts” or out-dated approaches; and able to respond to the needs on the ground. One host talked about FTF volunteers as people who can “come down to this level”.

...FTF volunteers are unique in that they “really listen” to the people, and explain to them why they need to make specific changes in their practices; a necessary approach for transferring knowledge in a contextually relevant and sustainable way.

...being specialized in their field of work (i.e. “experts”); able to articulate information in a language that rural farmers can understand (using simple, less technical terms); friendly and open to sharing their skills; flexible (e.g. someone who doesn’t complain about not having air conditioning in his hotel room); culturally sensitive; able to transfer knowledge in a contextually relevant way; previous international experience; and having Spanish language skills [for Spanish speaking countries].
These excerpts come from our different country programs. Recurring themes are flexibility, value of the repeat volunteer who is already familiar with the local context, value of volunteers who remain in touch with beneficiaries after returning home and helping make linkages to resources or materials, local language skills, and good interpersonal/intercultural skills.

Thank you to all our wonderful volunteers!


  1. This is a really valuable post and I encourage all new and potential volunteers to read this. Most often I find the biggest gap in development to be the transfer of information to the local farmers in any country, even in the US. The information is available, but the ability to functionally communicate it often missing. Sometimes it is as simple as standing next to someone and extending a hand. Then again sometimes it can get very involved. Farmer to Farmer is aptly named as I often feel I learn more than I teach.
    Did someone say air conditioning?

  2. Your posting for qualities of effective Farmer to Farmer volunteers program are so effective and valuable for farmers.