Monday, February 27, 2012

Excerpts from the Travel Log of a Haiti FTF Volunteer

Robert Spencer, Alabama Cooperative Extension staff and Farmer to Farmer volunteer currently in Haiti, sent us some comments for the blog! Below are some excerpts with some highlights from his trip so far:

During my past discussions with other Farmer to Farmer (FTF) colleagues, and based upon my visits to many rabbit and small animal farms, I have come of the opinion that my role as an educator is currently best served by helping the target audiences better understand the essentials and benefits of proper animal care as it relates to productivity. 

Producer in Sibert shows her production practices
February 18: I arrived in Port Aux Prince, Haiti late Sat. afternoon, embraced by warm temperatures which were a welcome relief after leaving temps of 50 degrees back in North Alabama. ... all five of us [FTF volunteers and field staff] then headed to an exploratory meeting with the Haiti Chapter of Partners of the Americas. This initial meeting involved finding out what projects the Haitian POA chapter and Makouti Agro Enterprises (and their FTF volunteers) had been addressing in the past, and what potential successes all parties might pursue through collaboration. It was a very positive meeting with promises of follow-up meetings to be held in the near future. 

The next day ... The four of us including Marc drove to Siebert to visit with a group of rabbit producers who varied in their success of production and were trying to learn more about best management practices that would equalize and advance their group to a level where they could expand and begin marketing their products locally. From what I leaned on the ride up there Marc/Haiti Dept. of Ag. was working with this group but needed technical expertise in the form of educational outreach, which is why Makouti and the FTF volunteers had recently started working with them. This group began producing rabbits in Sept. of 2011. During that afternoon we visited approximately 28 rabbit farms with rabbit populations varying from two to eighteen.

Robert checks on a "kid" in Sibert
Fifth Day: Our fist seminar was held during a return visit to Siebert, and we had a good attendance; almost everyone from the farms we had previously visited was in attendance. As agreed the night before, Anderson and I took the animal welfare/husbandry approach, and the information was well received. There was three hours of dynamic interaction with: a Power Point Presentation, questions, discussion, suggestions, and lots of laughter. I am always excited to see the enthusiasm of the Haitian people, and they always amaze me with their outpourings of verbal appreciation, they are a very eloquent people. About 30 people from the community attended this seminar; Marc ONel was there as well to represent the Haiti Dept. of Agriculture. 

Sixth Day: The most impressive aspect of today’s event was the Assistant Director for Animal Production from the Haiti Department of Agriculture sat in on the entire program. At the end of the seminar he requested a copy of the Extension Publication UNP-0126 Small-Scale Commercial Rabbit Production I was displaying and a copy of my Power Point presentation; by the end of the day he had both. Attendance for today was about 26. 

Based on what I have observed in the past few days I say this: ... The partnership of Haiti’s Department of Agriculture, Makouti Agro Enterprises, and Farmer to Farmer as a collaborative initiative can make this into an example of success for the Southern region of Haiti, and a model of collaboration throughout the country. ... I was really impressed with the initiative the Dept. has taken in helping this community, seeking the technical expertise of other appropriate parties, and the initial benefits form a cooperative, progressive attitude.

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