Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ya Llegamos! we are here!

Update from the field from F2F volunteers Valerie Malzacher and Felice Maciejewski...

Valerie and I arrived in Santo Domingo. Our trip went well. We met up in Miami, our flight was on time and our luggage arrived. Rafael and his lovely wife, Sofia, picked us up at the airport. We saw many interesting things along the way. Hurrican Sandy has stirred up the Caribbean. The water which is usually a beautiful blue, now looks like the Big Muddy. Waves crashed along the Malecon. Lots of palm trees and other vegetation such as bougainvilia. It is Sunday, so there are lots of folks out spending time with their families near el caribe.

We both have been up since early, early this morning. Off to find some dinner and then to bed early. Tomorrow, bright and early, we head for our assignment, Universidad ISA in Santiago. About a 2.5 hour drive. Nos vemos!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Librarians/Bibliotecarias: On Our Way to the Dominican Republic!

It all happened because of a very colorful woven market bag.

 About a year ago, my colleague, Valerie Malzacher, library director at the Chalmer Davee Library at UW-River Falls, came to a meeting with this very cool bag.  I had to ask where she got it as I suspected it was from Latin America. I am attracted to all things colorful and Latin American! She told me she got it in Nicaragua. Since I had lived in Costa Rica for almost six years I was very interested in hearing about her experience in Costa Rica's neighbor to the north.   She told me about her experience with Farmer to Farmer and her assignment to a Nicaraguan agricultural library. Intrigued, I told her that I would love to do something like that, especially since I speak Spanish and I am a librarian.

Fast forward to today. I have the honor to have been selected to participate in the Farmer to Farmer program in the Dominican Republic. As library director at the Rebecca Crown Library at Dominican University, I of course, am eager to share my expertise with our Dominicano colleagues.  ( I have also learned that I need to be careful to call the Dominican Sisters (founders of Dominican University (formerly known as Rosary College)) Dominicas instead of Dominicanas (those from the Dominican Republic).

Valerie and I are headed to Santiago and we have been assigned to work with the library at the Universidad ISA. We will be working with Pavel Corniel, Library Director at Universidad ISA. Our agenda for this assignment includes coordinating an inventory of the library collection, meeting with librarians from around the region to talk about collaborative and consortial programs, database management, and discussions about digital and institutional repositories.

We will begin our journey in Miami, arriving in Santo Domingo Sunday evening, and arriving in Santiago bright and early Monday morning.

Both Valerie and I are excited about our assignment and eager to meet our colleagues. And of course we hope that they will be just as excited to meet us!

Hasta la proxima!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Harnessing the Benefits of Honey

photo credit: Justin Hackworth
You may have heard that honey can soothe a sore throat or that it is a good alternative for sugar, but have you heard about the other multifaceted health benefits of raw honey? Many types of honey you will find in the typical grocery store is processed (heated and pressure-filtered) to ensure a longer shelf-life without crystallizing. But raw, unprocessed honey sold by beekeepers, farmers markets, or organic food stores contains a multitude of health benefits that you will want to know about.

Can raw honey increase the calcium that your body absorbs? Ease insomnia and anemia? Treat ulcers? Fight gum disease? The website of a North Carolina nurse and beekeeper gives a comprehensive list of these and other wonders of honey for health, nutrition, and even beauty, and explains the properties of honey which enable such health benefits. Publications which report on benefits which have only been medically-proven by research studies take a more conservative stance, but also report that honey has been proven more successful at reducing nighttime cough for children and aiding sleep than some pharmaceutical medicines, and note the antioxidant and antibiotic properties which are present especially in darker types of honey.

In Haiti, Makouti Agro Enterprise is harnessing the natural properties of honey to develop an energy- and protein-rich snack product. "Myel Nana" combines honey, peanuts, and other locally-available ingredients into a small but potent combination which is good for quick energy. Whether in Haiti, the US, or elsewhere, even a teaspoon of raw honey can have many benefits. So, have you had your honey yet today?

Click here to read more about how Partners' Farmer to Farmer Program assists beekeepers around the world to increase the quantity and improve the quality of their honey.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Volunteer Makes a Splash in Ecuador

In July, Farmer to Farmer volunteer Chase McNulty journeyed to Ecuador to use his animal health expertise to assist local farmers with a host of issues. Mr. McNulty, making his second trip with the program,  focused on improving animal husbandry, milk production and sanitation. He also addressed a critical concern of local dairy farmers—the prevalence of mastitis and brucellosis among cattle. Mastitis is a disease of the mammary glands, while brucellosis decreases the reproductive abilities of infected cows and can also be transmitted to humans, causing further complications.

Mr. McNulty inspecting a cow with a fellow veterinarian.
Working with two veterinarians in Chaco and the Andean region of Ambato, Mr. McNulty went on farm calls, gave lectures to groups of small and large scale farmers and even made appearances on radio and television to promote proper dairy practices. Through hands-on instruction, Mr. McNulty trained farmers in brucellosis testing and management. He also tested 180 cows himself, with hopes of integrating the results into a multidisciplinary research project that would lay the groundwork for a permanent testing facility in Ecuador.

A group training session.
 Mr. McNulty is currently a veterinary medical student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has previously volunteered with Farmer to Farmer in Nicaragua and has also done volunteer work in Mexico.

Mr. McNulty giving a talk on a radio show in El Chaco.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Happy World Food Day October 16, 2012!

World Food Day is designed to increase awareness and understanding, and spark year-round action to alleviate hunger. The theme this year is “Agriculture Cooperatives: Key to Feeding the World,” chosen to recognize the role cooperatives, producer organizations and other rural institutions play in food security.

Partners of the Americas’ Farmer to Farmer Program contributes to food security and helps fight hunger in many ways in the communities and countries where we work. Volunteers have assisted cooperatives, producer organizations, and rural institutions to improve practices and increase knowledge and technical skills. This results in higher crop yields, better quality agricultural products, and higher profits from product sales, which gives families more purchasing power to buy healthy food. Training in nutrition is also critical and volunteers have helped families learn how to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their diets.

Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy lifestyle. This blog contains many examples of how Partners’ Farmer to Farmer volunteers have contributed to food security and hunger relief. If you would like to be a part of the Farmer to Farmer program, find out how you can volunteer today!

And to learn more about the activities taking place in your community for World Food Day, please visit the World Food Day USA website.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Volunteers Say "Yes!" to Sí a La Leche

It's perplexing that Nicaragua, Central America's leading producer of dairy exports and livestock, lags the furthest behind in terms of the region's dairy consumption. In fact, although estimates put annual per capita milk production at 75 liters, eight liters of soda are consumed for every liter of milk consumed in Nicaragua. Across the country, dairy consumption is declining, while sugary drinks and canned goods are being downed in increasingly large numbers.

Ms. Brathwaite giving a presentation to a group of students.
To combat the health hazards this trend presents, Farmer to Farmer volunteer Kshinte Brathwaite joined forces with the Sí a La Leche campaign two years ago to promote the nutritional aspects of dairy products to school children. The initiative partners with the Nicaraguan Chamber of Dairy (CANISLAC) to give presentations at various schools and learning centers near Managua through hands-on activities. At the schools and learning centers, volunteers also share information about the benefits of dairy consumption with mothers and members of the community. The target age range is 3-8, though adolescents as old as 15 have been educated.
Students awaiting milk samples.

During her dairy assignment in 2010, Ms. Brathwaite, a Farmer to Farmer veteran, served as the campaign's "official nutritionist" and instructed groups of up to 400 students and caregivers through interactive presentations and printed materials. She also participated in news and radio interviews to stress not only the nutritional value of milk, but its cheap price relative to other beverages such as soda and juice, as well. The main message Ms. Brathwaite conveyed related to the nutritional benefits of consuming dairy products and recommended servings, with the desired end result being increased knowledge of dairy products and their value among the local schoolchildren. 

A small group discussion using Sí a La Leche materials.
Continuing where Ms. Brathwaite left off, Betania (Batya) Silva will be traveling to Nicaragua this month to further promote and work with Sí a La Leche. Ms. Silva has previously volunteered with Farmer to Farmer in Nicaragua to educate communities about nutritionspecifically, the importance of having a balanced diet that is heavily reliant on home-grown vegetables, fruits, whole grains, milk and protein foods. Both Ms. Brathwaite and Ms. Silva have worked for the University of Wisconsin as extension nutrition education specialists.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Signs of Farmer to Farmer Assistance in Guyana

This week, headquarters and local Guyana Farmer to Farmer staff are taking some time to visit project sites to monitor progress and talk to the farmers about the recommendations they've received by past volunteers. In just the first day, we already have seen and discussed a lot! Below are some pictures from just four visits. There are many more to come!

Several of these images feature our collaboration with the local shadehouse and hydroponics program implemented by the Guyana Chapter of Partners of the Americas. F2F volunteers have provided a great deal of technical assistance, most recently in cost of production, marketing, making organic pesticides, shadehouse design and irrigation systems, and creating hydroponics training videos.

Shadehouse operator "Valo" describes a hydroponic system new to Guyana which is being developed following the assistance of FTF Volunteer Michael Driver. Once completed, this system could reduce costs of production and increase profit margin for farmers, while maintaining the high quality of produce.

Mrs. Isaacs, shadehouse operator, and Guyana F2F Coordinator Kelvin Craig display new sign
Lettuce and pok choi from Mrs. Isaacs' shadehouse. She sells to caterers who love the quality of her produce. They say they would buy from her or no one else! Her shadehouse is screened on the sides, which has been recommended by IPM volunteers for reducing pest damage.
Solar fruit dryer constructed at the Guyana School of Agriculture with the assistance of F2F volunteer Ralph Bucca. Still in use today, making plantain chips, after several years. The small size of the dryer is ideal for students to manage as a project or micro-enterprise.
FTF Field Officer Sigmund McKenzie showing off his hydroponic seedling nursery, and a box of lettuce seedlings to soon be delivered to a shadehouse operator. Several recent volunteers have identified specialized seedling nurseries as a key limiting factor in the value chain, so the success and growth of these nurseries are a key component to the industry.
Organic pesticide at use in crop and seedling production, through the assistance of recent volunteer Samuel Schaefer-Joel. Following Samuel's recommendations, staff and growers are using the formulated spray and also experimenting with varied formulations to arrive at the mose effective solution. The spray is also well labeled, consistent with recommendations of past volunteers in pesticide safety.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tropical Forage Management in Nicaragua

Group of CONAGAN participants
Dr. Yoana Newman and Dr. Rocky Lemus are tropical forage production specialists that volunteered with Farmer to Farmer in Nicaragua September 14-26, 2012. Dr. Newman and Dr. Lemus worked with the National Agrarian University (UNA) at their demonstration farm in Camoapa (114 km from Managua).  Camoapa is the largest cattle producing region in Nicaragua as a result the local industry is focused in cattle raising, trading, and dairy.

Forage management is an important issue in Nicaragua because feed intake and availability are major constraints for the local dairy cattle industry especially during the dry season, which lasts from December to May. Silage and hay can be used to provide fodder during this period to maintain a diet high in nutrients for the dairy cattle. Dr. Newman and Dr. Lemus worked with both students, university staff and local producers to make silage from locally available resources. They made a one and two ton silage supply that local producers can replicate in their farms and use during the upcoming dry season.

Local youth helps make silage
Together with the National Cattleman's Association (CONAGAN) the team was able to hold both theoretical and practical trainings with producers, agricultural students and technicians on the management of improved pastures and soils. They will also be putting together a forage calendar for 2013 that will be available to participating producers in Spanish and with local contextual information.

Dr. Newman is an Assistant Professor in the Agronomy Department at the University of Florida, this is her second Farmer to Farmer trip to Nicaragua, the first was in June 2010. Dr. Lemus is an Assistant Extension/Research Professor in the Plant and Soil Science Department at Mississippi State University Extension Services. 

Group showing silage depository