Thursday, June 23, 2011

Update from the Field: The Dominican Republic

Horticultural Specialist Gary Hickman is currently volunteering in the Dominican Republic on a greenhouse assignment. Mr. Hickman will be consulting with government officials and providing training workshops for local farmers to help them improve production, optimize productivity, and increase income.

During his visit, he will be meeting with various members of the Dominican government (both current and previous) to discuss the future of greenhouse policy in the country. These meetings include former President  HipĆ³lito Mejia. Here, Hickman is pictured in a meeting with the Agricultural Committee of the Dominican Congress discussing the new greenhouse public law.

 “Every day the Farmer to Farmer Program is getting some kind of recognition by the agricultural sector…”
-Rafael Ledesma Schoowe

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Nicaragua Dairy Project Yields Encouraging Results

Marta Fajardo (left) with FTF Volunteer Yoana Newman
Dairy farmer Marta Fajardo raises around 60 cows on an 85-hectare farm in the Camoapa region of Nicaragua.  She has been working with Farmer to Farmer volunteers for several years to help improve her milk quality, herd health, forage and feed options and more.  During a recent visit to her farm, Marta was excited to report increased calving rates – double what they had been in the past. Marta’s cows now calve every year rather than every other year, and Marta is happy to attribute this exceptional increase to the mineral salt she now adds to her cow feed – the suggestion of a Farmer to Farmer volunteer. Marta’s cows have also increased their milk production from three to three and a half liters per day, and she has seen other improvements in her farming systems.

Because one of the key aims of the Farmer to Farmer program in Nicaragua is to aid farmers in producing more, contaminant-free milk, stories like Marta’s are a source of pride for the Farmer to Farmer team.  In the recent Midterm Review of the program, Farmer to Farmer was pleased to see that many of the participating producers in Nicaragua have seen marked improvements in milk quality, market access, and milk sales.  These improvements wouldn’t be possible without the technical assistance and training from volunteers on topics such as the use of genetics in breeding stronger, healthier cattle; post natal care; forage and food nutritional value; safety, hygiene and sanitation; and much more.

FTF volunteers looking at silage on the Fajardo farm. 
Despite these exciting results, Nicaraguan farmers still have challenges.  Improved record-keeping is a top priority and solutions to the issues related to milk spoilage are still a concern, among other topics.  Farmer to Farmer plans to have volunteer assist in these areas, as well as continue to provide training in all areas of the dairy value chain.  The data and positive feedback from local producers to date speaks volumes: thanks to the tireless efforts of volunteers and staff alike, the Farmer to Farmer program is empowering farmers, and aiding in the attainment of food security and economic growth in Nicaragua.

To volunteer with the Farmer to Farmer Program, visit

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Photojournalism Slideshow Highlights Farmer to Farmer and Makouti Activities in Haiti

Recent FTF-Haiti volunteer Nick Brubaker put his photographic skills to good use while in Haiti. Since his return to the US he has created a photojournalism piece with some of his many photos, bringing attention to the situation of farmers in Haiti and especially the work of Farmer to Farmer and Makouti Agro Enterprise in improving the Haitian agriculture industry and the lives of small-scale farmers.

This photojournalism piece was recently entered into the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation "Small Farmers are the Answer" Challenge, a competition soliciting various forms of creative works which show the value that investing in small-scale farmers has in economic growth and development. Nick volunteered in Haiti this spring as a website design specialist for the purpose of improving the design and functionality of the Makouti Agro Enterprise website.

Special thanks to Nick for his work developing the slideshow. Thanks also to our other talented FTF volunteers, and the monitoring efforts of our staff, whose reporting provided informative captions.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Honduras: Then and Now

Glen Juergens, Certified Forester and member of the International Society of Tropical Foresters, recently returned from a successful Farmer to Farmer “flex” trip to Honduras where he worked in collaboration with the Sustainable Harvest Foundation of Honduras (FUCOHSO) to survey 14 water sources for 12 communities in the Departments of Yoro and Santa Barbara.

FUCOHSO is an organization which aims to improve the nutrition of rural families in remote communities, aid in the attainment of economic stability, and teach better farming methods using organic technologies in a sustainable manner. FOCUHSO also focuses on imparting to families the importance of protecting the environment, forest and water resources in order to improve their lives over the long term. As a former Peace Corp volunteer stationed in Honduras, Juergens personally confirms that FOCUHSO is making significant and beneficial improvements to the lives of these people. Below are a few excerpts and reflections from his trip report.

“Honduras has certainly changed over the last 30+ years since I was there as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1977-1979! Few small communities had water and/or electricity in their homes in the 1970s. The first village I worked in as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1977, I had to walk about ¼ mile to get my drinking water from a spring next to the stream that went through the village and over ½ mile to the spot where I could bathe in the river. The drinking water from the spring would become contaminated with every large rain storm that caused the stream to rise above the level of the spring or when domestic animals would walk through the spring. [During my trip] only 1 community of the 12 I visited still did not have either water or electricity… Another change I noticed is that all of the children that I met on this trip seemed very healthy. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras in the 1970s, the majority of children in small, rural communities were suffering from malnutrition. Part of the malnutrition was due to the fact that their diets were lacking the variety of vegetables and protein needed for children to grow and maintain their health. FUCOHSO is teaching families how to grow a variety of vegetables, using organic fertilizers and pesticides, and how to add the vegetables to their diets. They also help families to build structures to protect the chickens from predators and to provide a place for the chickens to lay eggs.   

The other part causing the malnutrition, as I mentioned above, was the lack of clean drinking water. Over the past 30 years many countries and non-government organizations have come to Honduras to help provide community water systems that reduce or eliminate the contamination that was causing many of the illnesses children were suffering from. Most of the water systems I visited were in areas where there was no immediate adjacent source of human or domestic animal contamination. However, due to deforestation and the lack of protection (fencing) around the water source, along with adjacent landowners above the water source cultivating crops, grazing animals or rainfall run-off from nearby roads, contamination potential of the water source is high. Some of the communities had chlorinating systems attached to the water tank to provide potable water but at least one community did not have the knowledge of how to use the system.

The good news is there are opportunities to continue to improve the water sources through education, reforestation efforts, and fencing to protect the water sources from potential contamination from domestic animals and poor agricultural and land use practices. FUCOHSO has the technology and ability available to provide this assistance. However, in some communities the land adjacent to the water source is owned by person(s) living outside of the community. In these cases there are opportunities for FUCOHSO to work with these landowners to improve their agricultural practices or to work with other organizations to buy the land, reforest, fence, and protect the watershed for the long-term benefit of the families living in these communities. FUCOHSO is having a substantial impact with the families that work with them to improve the nutrition and socio-economic well-being of the families while educating them on the importance of protecting the environment and water quality.”-Glen Juergens

Glen Juergens has also volunteered with Partners of the Americas’ Farmer to Farmer Program in the Dominican Republic. Partners is pleased to collaborate with organizations like FUCOHSO who share similar goals of improving agricultural and environmental systems together with rural communities.