Friday, September 28, 2012

Taking It to the Next Level: Honduran Farmers Begin Shift from Subsistence to Commercialization

Howard Fenton, Accountant with University of Wisconsin - Cooperative Extension, will be wrapping up his 2-week flexible volunteer assignment in Honduras this weekend. Since arriving in Tegucigalpa on September 15th, Howard has been working with Sustainable Harvest Honduras (FUCOHSO) to provide training in basic accounting and record-keeping to approximately 100 of FUCOHSO's participating families.

FUCOHSO's goal is to help families from Honduras' rural farming communities overcome poverty while at the same time conserving the region's natural resources. A number of families who have been part of the program for a while are now shifting from subsistence farming to income generating activities. As they begin to form cooperatives and make a move toward comercialization, it is necessary for them to develop basic business skills for managing their enterprises. This is a need that Howard has been addressing through his trainings in basic accounting and record-keeping.

The following updates, sent by Howard to Farmer to Farmer Headquarters in Washington, DC, provide a glimpse into the successes that have been achieved so far.

Thursday, September 20th:
The farmers are actively participating and discussing amongst themselves as we work through the exercises, and they express their appreciation for a recordkeeping system they can use for their farming operations and in their homes (quite a few women have attended the workshops and they participate as well as the men ' I love it!).
Friday, September 21st:
We had our best day yet today in Santa Ana, Santa Barbara. The workshop was well attended (including two women who participated more than some of the men), and the crop we used for an example (beans) allowed us to touch on some topics (loans and rents) not covered in previous days.

I cannot tell you what an experience this has been. It is going so much better than I ever anticipated. The farmers are so eager to learn and keep focused for the whole time. (Workshops have typically been lasting at least 5 hours not including lunch.) I certainly appreciate the opportunity.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Building for the Future in the Dominican Republic

Farmer to Farmer volunteer Aaron Chevalley is completing the last leg of a Green Building Concepts & LEED Design assignment in the Dominican Republic. For the past week and a half, Mr. Chevalley has delivered presentations and taught a course at Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña's School of Architecture in Santo Domingo on LEED standards. These guidelines provide a framework for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings, structures that are resource-efficient and environmentally sound.

Mr. Chevalley presenting to students
In order to promote measurable community improvement, the class focuses on hurricane and earthquake resistant design, sustainability, and even goes beyond the scope of architecture by touching on community connectivity and cultural sensitivity. The course is no easy A, as it is centered around discussions, which lead into student participation and handouts. Daily assignments are given, including a midterm exam, and the class culminates in a final project in which the students, architects themselves, must research and design a basic structural plan that follows LEED principles.

Mr. Chevalley during a class discussion
Mr. Chevalley earned his Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Arkansas School of Architecture in 2007. He is a LEED Accredited Professional and has previously applied his expertise to help improve communities in Peru and Nicaragua.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Women Entrepreneurs Featured in FTF-Produced Video

The enterprising women of the Pomeroon Women's Agro Processors Association in Guyana are featured in this video, created by FTF volunteers Sid McGregor and Michelle Guasto. The Farmer to Farmer Program has supported PWAPA over the years with technical assistance in areas such as wine making for fruit preservation, marketing, and solar fruit drying. This video tells the story of how a rural women's enterprise became successful and serves as an example for other start-up rural enterprises.

PWAPA: The evolution of a rural enterprise from Postmay Films on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Florida Queen-Rearer Generates Positive Results in Leon, Nicaragua

Khara Matcham of Melbourne, FL, is back in the U.S. after a 3-week visit to Leon Nicaragua, 2 hours northwest of Managua. Ms. Matcham is the Owner of a queen-producing apiary - Sorority House Queens, Inc. - in Melbourne, as well as a Beekeeper at Sunshine Apiary, Inc. in Windsor, ME.

Volunteer, Khara Matcham, in front of the Farmer to Farmer
Field Office in Managua.
Just the 4th beekeeper to work with our Nicaragua Country Program, Ms. Matcham's assignment focused on queen rearing. Volunteers typically meet with a few different host organizations while in-country, however due to the strict, attention-demanding nature of queen rearing, the full 3 weeks were spent with La Leonesa, an organic beekeeping cooperative in Leon composed largely of young men with less than 5 years of beekeeping experience.

With translation support from the daugther of Leonesa's director, Ms. Matcham provided training to 9 of Leonesa's members. One day was spent in a classroom-like setting, during which Ms. Matcham shared her own queen rearing methods with the group. The other days were spent out in the field examining hives, setting up breeders and grafting to produce viable queen cells.

Ms. Matcham's visit with La Leonesa had several positive outcomes. After 4 rounds of grafting, the group produced viable queen cells that can be used in the upcoming weeks. And Ms. Matcham - never having worked with Africanized bees previously - learned that they can be pretty mellow if handled properly and dismissed the "killer bee" image that she previously held.

Friday, September 14, 2012

This Week in the Field

This week, 9 specialists are volunteering their time through Partners' Farmer to Farmer Program in Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic! They are working on assignments ranging from "Tropical Cattle Forage and Grazing Management" to "Green Building and LEED Standards,"  "Honey Network Evaluation," and more.

Additionally, four more will travel this weekend to Honduras, Guyana, and the DR. Below are a few photos from the field which give a snapshot of recent activities.

Dave and Flo Wagner are traveling throughout Haiti, meeting with stakeholders in the honey value chain. They will analyze the strength of the network and help build a strategic plan for the national industry.
ADESJO Technicians and women greenhouse vegetable producers who worked with volunteer Juan Carlos Andrade on Organic Certification discuss aspects of production (San Jose de Ocoa, Dominican Republic)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Food Safety Trainings in the Dominican Republic

Dr. Barakat Mahmoud recently returned from the Dominican Republic where he completed a Farmer to Farmer assignment focused on food safety. During Dr. Mahmoud's first few days he visited various packing houses in the Santiago area.  After his initial visits, Dr. Mahmoud led a two day workshop for packing house managers, students, producers and professors at the Instituto Superior de Agricultura (ISA). The ISA University is one of the few in the country that offers a concentration in food safety.   Some of the topics he covered included Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GHP).
Visiting a Local Packing House

During his second week, Dr. Mahmoud worked with extension agents from ADESJO in San Jose de Ocoa and Sur Futuro en Padre las Casas. Some of the topics in the workshops included fresh produce safety hazards, surveillance of foodborne illnesses, site selection, fertilizer and pesticide safety.  Good Handling Practice topics included the areas of harvesting, cooling, packaging and storage.

Dr. Mahmoud at the ISA University

* Dr. Mahmoud is an Assistant Professor of Food Safety/ Microbiology and Extension Specialist at Mississippi State University.  His research work has covered bacterial food borne pathogens, non-thermal novel technologies/ processes to reduce the risk of food borne illnesses and control spoilage micro-organisms. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Success in Three Brothers Community: Waini Naturals Reports Success in Value-Added Cosmetic Products

Greg and Annie De Silva, members of the Waini Naturals cosmetic production group in Guyana's Three Brothers Community, are proud to announce that sales of their crabwood tree oil-based products are going well and that they plan to continue production.

Waini Naturals members, Greg and Annie De Silva (center), meet
with FTF Country Coordinator Kelvin Craig, Dr. Parris-Aaron of
IICA, and VSO International Volunteer Pam Jardine. 
The De Silvas's were among the group of approximately 10 participants who received technical training from Farmer to Farmer volunteers, Bruce Akers and Dr. Henry Chan. Bruce Akers, a Consultant with extensive experience in formulating personal care, cleaning, and cosmetic products, traveled to Three Brothers Community through a flexible assignment in February 2010. Mr. Akers' visit focused on improving the crabwood oil-making process - a product that they have been producing for years - and using the oil to develop balms and lotions. Following hands-on demonstrations and explanations of necessary materials and mixing conditions, the group successfully prepared 9 batches of lotion.

Participants make value-added cosmetics with FTF
Volunteer, Bruce Akers.
Three Brothers received a second FTF volunteer, Dr. Henry Chan, in August 2011. Pharmaceutical Executive with AMEDICO LABS LLC and Technical Director of Maylan Skincare, Dr. Chan provided training in how to use crabwood oil to make value-added cosmetic products, mainly shampoos, creams, soaps, and lotions. Key topics included the physical and chemical properties of each ingredient, the function of each ingredient in product formulas, and weighing, heating and mixing the ingredients to produce a value-added product.

The De Silva's, with support from the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs in Guyana, have incorporated teachings from Mr. Akers and Dr. Chan into their cosmetic production practice and continue to successfully produce soaps and creams. Partners of the Americas' Farmer to Farmer Program, together with FAVACA and Dr. Chan, are currently helping Waini Naturals to source product inputs which will allow them to expand production further and develop a sustainable rural business.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

FTF Projects on World Bank Jobs Knowledge Platform

We are proud to share that two projects which Farmer to Farmer supports have been entered into an online platform and competition through the World Bank Jobs Knowledge Platform!

The Platform's "Experiences from the Field" category now features Guyana's "Hydroponics Shadehouse and Marketing Project" and the Haiti's "Micro-enterprise Project" (rabbit production). Have you volunteered towards these local projects, or are you interested to learn more about them? Click on the project name to visit the page, watch the project video, rate the project and leave a comment, and please share! These are both innovative projects creating micro-enterprise opportunities for small-scale farmers in the developing world.

The Jobs Knowledge Platform aims to share practices and solutions related to job creation, an issue of global concern. Projects "from the field" which receive the best score through the most votes, highest rating, and review from a panel of experts will win a monetary prize and a chance to attend a global meeting on the subject.

Platform 's "Experiences from the Field" official video: