Friday, February 25, 2011

Photos from the Field: A Volunteer in Action!

Farmer to Farmer volunteer, Ralph Bucca, shared some photos from his work in Guyana. The volunteer constructed solar dryers for the preservation and dehydration of fruit and vegetables.
Farmer to Farmer volunteer, Ralph Bucca with the newly constructed solar dryer in Mainstay.
Farmer to Farmer volunteer with 2 carpenters and FTF field officer, Ryan Nedd (on right).
A FTF volunteer hard at work!
And the solar dryer gets put to the test...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Call for Volunteers!

Nutrition volunteer from Wisconsin in Nicaragua
We are recruiting for volunteers in various areas! See our list of open assignments by clicking on "Open FTF Volunteer Assignments" to the right under Related Links. We update the list periodically and we are always collecting resumes of interested individuals for our database for future assignments that come available.

Who are FTF volunteers? FTF Volunteers come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Many are involved in agriculture education through extension or university systems, whereas others are farmers, consultants, veterinarians, beekeepers, graphic or web designers, or business people. Some are retired and some are PhD students. All are interested in sharing their time and skills with communities abroad and getting to know a different part of the world. We look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Meat Quality Assurance in Haiti

For the past week, volunteer Robert Spencer has been in Haiti training and learning together with Makouti Agro Enterprise and the Haiti FTF Team. Robert is a farm owner and employee of the Alabama Cooperative Extension, and he has garnered the support of his colleagues at the USDA FSIS who have generously supported his trip by donating meat thermometers which will be distributed to restaurants and supermarkets to improve food safety.

This past week Robert has begun conducting a second level training in meat quality assurance, building on the knowledge base presented during his 2010 trip, as well as experimenting with changes in processing and packaging of meat products which have already improved the appearance and safety of the product. He is also having a great time trying his hand at rooftop beekeeping, drinking Haitian coffee, and eating delicious Haitian food. Thank you Robert for sending in these photos and we hope to have more updates on your trip as it progresses!

Volunteer Robert Spencer poses with Makouti AgroEnterprise workshop participants

Enjoying the delicious rice, beans, vegetables, and rabbit prepared by Makouti staff Jojo and Wilnese

Robert poses with a frame from the Makouti rooftop hive

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Day in the Life of a FTF-Guyana Volunteer

FTF Volunteers discuss the pesticide-safety chart at Hauraruni
The Guyana Farmer to Farmer Program has three volunteers in country now, all of whom are returning to follow up after their first visits years ago. Below are some photos and an informal "day to day" commentary which sheds light on the activities and adventures of a FTF volunteer.

Volunteer Ralph Bucca is focusing on food preservation, through drying fruit in solar dryers and preserving fruit in locally-made wine. He snagged some time at a computer with an internet connection to write:

"Spent Sunday thru Tuesday getting orientated and preparing for building a solar food dryer (SFD) at the Guyana School of Agriculture. It’s hot here so I got a haircut and shave, and bought a Yucatan styled shirt. I priced out the materials for the sfd and met with the carpenter to explain it. Will build it next week when I return from the west coast. There are 2 other volunteers here, Toxicology experts, who created and built a flip chart listing all the chemicals the farmers use and their danger levels, scary stuff."

"Got up yesterday at 5am to head to the west coast. It involved crossing one river on a floating bridge to get to Parika on the Escibuque [Essequibo] River. Waited till 7am for the first speed boat to fill up with 16 passengers and stuff. We are given a life jacket and a thick yellow tarp to hold over us for the exciting 45 minute ride to Supernam, cruising thru mangrove jungle. Was picked up by Garvin, my coordinator in a cab. Went to the Mainstay resort, where I met with the Amerindian captain to explain the assignment, to return later."

"We then went to Charity, where the road ends on the Pomeroon River, a funky jungle port town. I was here 4 years ago and created a training DVD of the winemaking process. Met with the two groups I worked with before to check their progress, they need some wine making tweaking, and will build sfds when I return at the end of the week. Got driven back to Mainstay, which is at the end of a dirt sandy 7 mile trail. We took a refreshing swim in the lake. We are the only guests here now, getting special attention. Ate dinner and shot pool till 9pm. Rained during the night and into the morn. Gavin left, I’m it now. Will have first winemaking training session at 1pm. TBC."

Region 10 Farmers Association are trained on safe handling of chemicals
Fred Aleguas and Henry Spiller are conducting trainings on the safe use of chemicals and symptoms of their effects. On their first assignment years ago they conducted surveys to determine which chemicals farmers are using and what protective gear they employ, if any, and symptoms they may have experienced. Since then they have developed a durable, color-coded flip chart which summarizes the risks, recommended protection, and other information for each chemical.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Nicaragua: Farmer to Farmer volunteer assists with Packaging and Labeling

Farmer to Farmer volunteer, Jeff Neville, provided technical assistance to dairy cooperatives in the areas of packaging and labeling.  Some excerpts from his trip report provide useful information regarding designing good and effective labels.

"Designing a good label involves the combined work of the manager in charge of marketing and a professional designer. The manager in charge of marketing provides the basic direction of the design and the professional designer has the artistic talent and the capability of working with a computer design program to produce the finished design. The marketing manager’s role in label design is to make sure the final design satisfies the marketing goal of gaining the consumer’s attention, making a good impression on her and finally getting her to buy the product. A good label results from the efforts of both of these key people.  The professional designer provides the artistic talent and ensures good aesthetics of the design and the marketing manager sees that the design will maximize the possibility of making a sale."

FTF volunteer, Jeff Neville, comparing label options with the Marketing Manager for Lacteos Nicarao.
The volunteer gave specific recommendations on the information needed for labels in an excellent, detailed report. The front label should have the following information: brand name, product name, catchy photo, weight and a phrase. The back label should have the following information: ingredient statement, nutritional information, UPC code, and company name, address and sanitary registration.

 The simple green font on a white label does not attract the customer's attention. The previous label was a simple sticker that was not good enough to withstand refrigeration.

The new label is more colorful and the brand (Lacteos Nicarao) and the product (Queso Mozzarella) are more clear and the photo of the cheese makes it more enticing to the potential buyer.

A glimpse of how all the labels for different products now compliment each other.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

In the news: FTF volunteers featured in New Mexico State University's News Center

Farmer to Farmer volunteers, Nancy Flores, an Extension Food Safety Specialist and Del Jimenez, an Extension Agricultural Specialist, both with New Mexico State University were highlighted in the University's News Center. The volunteers gave trainings in Good Manufacturing Practices and Good Agricultural Practices to students and professors at Instituto Superior de Agricultura in Santiago, Dominican Republic.

To read more, please visit the article.

FTF volunteer, Nancy Flores working with students in a food technology class.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Beekeeping Update from Haiti

This update on the beekeeping project in Haiti comes from our Farmer to Farmer Field Staff. They wished to share a few photos and information with previous FTF-Haiti volunteers and blog readers.
Inspection of modern hive
Our Haiti coordinator was quick to point out that in this photo above, you have several people working in the hive but none have any protective gear. Still, they are working with confidence in the hive. Fear of bees is an obstacle to many would-be beekeepers in Haiti, and some people who keep bees remain afraid of them. Farmer to Farmer volunteers provide training in improving hive management skills, resulting in better beekeepers and less aggressive behavior in bee colonies.
Top bar heavy with honey
Some Haitian beekeepers have begun to experiment with the Kenya Top Bar Hive, or Long Hive, over the past few years. This type of hive is cheaper and easier to construct locally compared to modern Langstroth-type hive. Several beekeepers now have a KTBH alongside their modern hives and, as the photo indicates, many have been successfully yielding honey. This photo also shows that while it was a good idea, the practice of using paint stirrers as top bars is not ideal because they bend under the weight of the honey and risk breaking.

 Our Haiti Coordinator also happens to be a talented photographer, resulting in photos like this one above.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Nicaragua: Dairy Farming and Farmer to Farmer

Partners of the Americas' Farmer to Farmer Program continues to bring best practices and technical expertise to the dairy industry in Nicaragua. In collaboration with FAVACA, highly skilled volunteers have been recruited and traveled to Nicaragua. To read more about the work of volunteers please see recent updates.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Video Clip Shows FTF Assistance in Haitian Coffee Industry

Two Farmer to Farmer - Haiti Volunteers describe challenges and opportunities in the Haitian coffee industry in this news video clip from KGO-TV San Francisco, which aired on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak and Yves Gourdet's efforts to help Haitian farmers improve and market their coffee abroad did not stop when their Farmer to Farmer assignments ended. Click below to view the video!