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 http://www.youtube.com/my_playlists?p=585CB9EB9D97E1F4 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 haiticoffee.com!

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 www.haiticoffee.com. 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.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Update from Guyana: Food and Pesticide Safety

Dr. Koo (left) and Dr. Njue (right) proudly display a large eddo (taro). Together with Dr. James Garner of UAPB, this team has been working with the farmers to study which cultural practices yield the best eddo crop.
During the past two weeks, two specialists from the University of Arkansas - Pine Bluff have been meeting with farmers in Guyana to conduct trainings in food safety and pesticide safety. For Drs. Jaheon Koo and Obadiah Njue, they have traveled several times to Guyana and have cultivated working relationships with these farmers over the years. Their trainings provide followup on previous visits from UAPB and also other volunteers (see captions below). Having just returned, they report having and productive an enjoyable trip. Check out some of the photos from their trip!

In a field of eddo crops, Dr. Koo consults with a farmer from the Kuru Kururu Farmers Crop and Livestock Association
KKFCLA members pose with the volunteers, also showing the color-coded pesticide safety charts developed by previous FTF volunteers and toxicologists Fred Aleguas and Henry Spiller. The chart was developed following surveys of chemicals used and available in Guyana, and provides information about the hazard level, known side effects, environmental risks, and safe handling procedures in a convenient and portable format
FTF-Guyana Field Officer Ryan Nedd (left) and KKFCLA farmer display new pesticide safety equipment
In addition to the KKFCLA eddo farmers, the volunteers consulted with shadehouse growers on food and pesticide safety topics

Friday, July 1, 2011

Jamaica: The Santoy Cooperative 5 Years Later

Since 2006, multiple Farmer to Farmer volunteers have traveled to Jamaica to assist the Santoy Farmers Cooperative with improved vegetable production, greenhouse design, and marketing. One team of multidisciplinary specialists – Cliff Keil (entomologist), Tom Evans (plant pathologist), Wallace Pill (soil scientist), and Ian McCann (irrigation specialist) – were among the first FTF volunteers to assist Santoy and have returned to Jamaica several times and have made a significant impact on the Cooperative. The team helped establish specific goals to help the farmers improve productivity and marketing strategies. During their most recent trip in 2011, the Farmer to Farmer team received a letter from Milton Murdock, leader of the cooperative, detailing the impact they’ve had over the last four years.

“Due to the involvement of this FTF team, the members of the Santoy Cooperative have benefited tremendously. At first, we were having difficulties growing certain crops due to limited knowledge in agriculture, but since their interaction, we have become fortified with technical, theoretical and practical information on greenhouse production.”
-Milton Murdock

Tom Evans and his team, over the course of several volunteer trips through Farmer to Farmer, held multiple training workshops which conveyed invaluable knowledge to the cooperative members regarding basic but effective farming methods, as well as the growth of microgreens, disease and pest prevention for Scotch Bonnet Pepper (a markedly difficult crop to grow) and much more. It is clear from Murdock’s letter that these training sessions were not only beneficial to the members present, but many others as well. Mr. Murdock, an agriculture science teacher, has been able to use the information he learned from the team to teach his students relevant information that they will be able to draw on in their own agribusiness ventures.

“The passion, hard work and dedication that the FTF team exerted was overwhelming. Due to the introduction of [microgreens] and other technical skills, we have gained access to the resort hotel market. We have our first contract with the Sandals Resort in Negril and are selling microgreens and sprouts to other high-end hotels and restaurants in Hanover, Westmorland and St. James Parishes. This has greatly increased our profitability and standard of living.”
-Milton Murdock

The determination shown by Mr. Murdock and the Santoy Cooperative, coupled with the technical assistance to Santoy over the years, has achieved the overarching goals of the USAID Farmer to Farmer Program: to strengthen agricultural institutions, increase agriculture sector productivity and profitability, and facilitate value chain development and market opportunities.

The outcomes of this work will continue to yield benefits to the members of Santoy for years to come. Success stories like Mr. Murdock’s are at the heart of Partners of the Americas' philosophy to “Connect, Serve, and Change Lives”.