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 (FundaciĆ³n 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.