Friday, March 23, 2012

Volunteer Spotlight: Pete Wotowiec Plays Key Role in the Development of Greenhouse Hydroponics in Jamaica and Guyana

Through his completion of 6 Farmer to Farmer (FTF) assignments with Partners of the Americas to date, Peter Wotowiec of Pikesville, Tennessee, has played a major role in the development of greenhouse hydroponics in Jamaica and Guyana.
Pete conducting a pH test on plant medium at Mar Friends

From October 2006 through August 2009, Pete made 3 visits to Jamaica with Partners of the Americas to work with The Heart Trust/NTA Ebony Park Academy. This residential academy provides agricultural training and certification and serves as a demonstration site where farmers learn and practice advanced farming techniques. Pete’s first visit to Ebony Park in the fall of 2006 focused on introducing the concept of greenhouse technology to the public and to faculty. He facilitated entry-level trainings in greenhouse and hydroponics systems design and management. In November 2007, Pete returned with Dr. Ted Carey of Kansas State University to determine the technical training needs of local greenhouse producers, develop a technical manual on Managed Environment Agriculture, and lead a seminar on greenhouse production and hydroponics. The highlight of Pete’s last visit to Ebony Park Academy in August 2009 was a 3-day seminar on starting and operating a greenhouse business for interested professionals and the general public.

Pete Wotowiec working with local Guyanese producers in
October 2011.
Between October 2006 and August 2009, Pete trained 194 Jamaican men and women in greenhouse agriculture and hydroponics. During this nearly 3-year span, Jamaica’s greenhouse industry saw the development of at least 2 grower cooperatives, and by 2009, input materials were locally available.

In addition to his work in Jamaica, Pete has also completed 3 FTF assignments in Guyana focused on shadehouse hydroponics. In January 2007, Pete first introduced a low-cost can/bag production system to Mar Friends Land Farmers Cooperative and the Hopetown Farmers Cooperative. Together, they designed the system, successfully sourced local components, identified a local source of affordable fertilizer, and began setting up the can/bag system components. In June 2010, Pete returned to provide training in business principles, record-keeping, greenhouse structures, and fundamental crop culture. During this time, he visited and provided recommendations for improving production to 6 greenhouse sites. Pete’s most recent visit in October 2011 included visits to growers, potential growers, and home-based operator sites to discuss production issues and promote greenhouse production, a workshop on plant science and best practices in shadehouse hydroponics construction and production, and a workshop for growers focusing on greenhouse design, pest management, fertilizers and watering.

Pete’s work in Guyana has directly benefitted 122 individuals, while 53 individuals have received training. From January 2007 – October 2011, 36 commercial hydroponics shade houses were in or about to be in production, and “home-based production” was introduced to smaller plots to encourage family vegetable production and consumption.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

FTF Volunteer in the News

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has recently published an online article featuring the ongoing support of extension agent Robert Spencer in Haiti.  During his February trip to Haiti Spencer worked alongside Makouti Agro Enterprise to provide trainings to rabbit producers - new and experienced - in all aspects of rabbit production, especially production as it relates to food safety and HACCP standards. They also visited 20 restaurants in Cap Haitien to distribute food safety information and meat thermometers, as well as developing business relationships to further meat quality assurance.

Click here to read the article!
Community leader and Robert Spencer display Cooperative Extension small-scale production manual

Monday, March 12, 2012

FTF Team Visits Projects in Nicaragua

FTF Teams from the DR, Guyana, Wisconsin and the DC Office
The Farmer to Farmer teams from the Dominican Republic, Guyana, and the US all visited Nicaragua for a field staff training. It was a great opportunity to share best practices and success stories among programs and also learn new skills. On the first evening, Nicaragua hosted a special event with with representatives of various host organizations who have worked with the program. Listening to their first-hand stories of how Farmer to Farmer has made an impact in Nicaragua was very impressive. And the delicious meal highlighting all the traditional cuisine of Nicaragua was a great touch. During the week-long visit, the Farmer to Farmer team also had the opportunity to visit several host organizations in the field and see some impacts first hand.

Pineapple in the portable solar dryer
One visit, to the nursery and agricultural training center Pio XII was very impressive. One of the impacts they shared was the portable solar dryer they build with assistance from a Farmer to Farmer volunteer. The team also visited a dairy processing plant and heard about some improvements that were made with the help of volunteers, including label designs. The final stop was a dairy farm, where the producer and his family demonstrated their previous milking practices and compared them with their current ones, adopted after volunteers worked with the family. They have seen great improvements in milk quality due to more hygienic milking practices and better mastitis testing. They also have improved cattle nutrition through new practices and techniques for forage and cattle feed.

Seeing the program impact in Nicaragua and hearing about activities in the other countries clearly shows that  Farmer to Farmer volunteers are making a difference in the hemisphere.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Video Team Travels to Guyana

This month, video production specialists Sid McGregor (of PostMay Films) and Michelle Guasto made their first trip to Guyana, and in Michelle's case, her first trip out of the country. They worked hard and also had a great time enjoying the natural beauty of Guyana and making some Guyanese friends! Below are some excerpts from Sid's blog describing some of their work, and a video showing some of the fun.

Arriving in Guyana
"We had a meeting with Mr. Craig, Ryan and Sigmund that morning at the offices of POA. Very nice place with a good deal of agriculture projects going on. They have a mini-swamp with an alligator, milk production facilities (though they have slowed down that particular practice) and they are hands deep in poultry. I was very impressed with their organization and process-minded ways in which they approached our project. Very efficient."

"...we have two videos that we are doing. Both videos feature an organization called the Pomeroon Women’s Agro-Processing Association – PWAPA for short. The first video is a success story about the PWAPA located in Charity, which is very difficult to find on a map. I know a little bit about the actual Pomeroon business but not a great deal. It’s run by all women and started from nothing and is now producing a lot of food. The other video is more of a training type. We are highlighting some of the sanitary processes that the women of Pomeroon have developed, and as a direct result of these processes they are extremely successful. I’m really excited to see this place and learn so much more. It sounds like a wonderful thing."

"That afternoon we had a meeting with Dr. Maxine Parris-Aaron [Agriculture Health Specialist, IICA]. She represents the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation On Agriculture (IICA) for Guyana. She was really informative and gave us more insight into the details of what they are looking for specifically in the videos. That evening we had our third and final meeting of the day. We all met back at the POA office, this time joined by several members of Partners community as a whole who do more than just agriculture. They introduced a new member who had just been assigned as the director of the Youth Alliance program for Guyana."

Partners' FTF-Guyana Office, on St. Stanislaus College Farm
[later...]"Today we crossed the ­Essequibo River, the biggest in Guyana. En route to the town of Parika where we got on the boat – we also passed over the largest floating bridge in the world. ... From here we hopped in a Taxi that took us to the little town of Charity. Charity is where the road ends – literally and figuratively. From here you’re in a boat or on foot. This is where the city ends and the forest begins."

"I was getting excited because it was finally time to go do what we came here for. ... The women had just started preparing the food in the back. I quickly gathered the camera gear and began documenting every process that they were doing. After documenting that process – we were ready for Vilma. ... She was very well spoken and had great passion for Pomeroon and all that they are doing. When I asked her about why her and her mother started this organization she simply stated, “To help people.” They specifically focus on the wives of farmers, who want to be out of poverty."

"Saturday we met Rose at the docs at 8:30 and headed down the Pomeroon River to visit a few farms to see the fruit in it’s natural environment. The morning for the most part was pretty relaxing. Two of the women from the Pomeroon Womens Business came with us as well as Rose’s daughter. Riding on the river was awesome. It was smooth and quiet and we just relaxed as we rode along and enjoyed the view."