Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Beehive a Day Keeps the Elephants Away: Beekeeping in Northern Ghana

Mr. Berube demonstrates how to harvest and filter honey.
During his recent Farmer to Farmer flexible assignment in northwestern Ghana, Mr. Conrad Berube of Nanaimo, British Colombia, introduced the basics of owning and keeping bees to interested local farmers. Mr. Berube is Executive Director of the Bees for Babar Society in Nanaimo, which helps subsistence farmers – specifically near Ghana's Mole National Park – install trip-wired beehives on their land to prevent elephants from eating their crops. 

Local farmers pose with Mr. Berube
From February 26th – April 6th, he arranged for the distribution of 30 hives, smokers and considerable technical information in the villages of Mognori, Murugu and Larabanga. Though not all materials have been distributed to date, several Ghanaian collaborators involved in Mr.   Berube's trip plan to complete the task.

Mr. Berube encounters an elephant in Mole National Park.
More than 120 individuals participated in Mr. Berube's technical trainings. He hopes that participants will eventually use their new beekeeping knowledge for income-generation; however, in the meantime, the presence of bees will help reduce crop destruction by elephants near Mole National Park, Ghana's largest wildlife reserve.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Señora Erenda's Garden

Señora Erenda at PIO XII in Masaya
Señora Erenda Lopez of Masaya, Nicaragua, is both an outstanding and longstanding Farmer to Farmer participant. She converted her farm into a training center called PIO XII, which assists other female producers in the area. In a recent Farmer to Farmer Field Staff workshop held in Nicaragua, staff from the Dominican Republic, Guyana and headquarters in Washington, DC had the opportunity to meet Señora Erenda and tour PIO XII.
FTF Field Staff planting seeds in one of PIO XII's
square-foot gardens
Erenda's dedication to her community is as strong as her dedication to her farm. Female producers who receive training and work at the PIO XII training center demonstrated with confidenence their knowledge of organic composting, fertilizers, solar oven use and square-foot gardening. They have put into practice the knowledge they've gained from Farmer to Farmer volunteers on small-scale agricultural production. Farmer to Farmer staff were very impressed with the ease with which the producers shared their acquired knowledge. They took many photographs of the women to share with female producers in their own countries.

Children building square-foot garden with guidance
from Señora Erenda
In addition to working with local female producers, Señora Erenda  has begun working with local children, teaching them to be promoters of square-foot gardening.  A team of Farmer to Farmer volunteers made up of Krista James, Arthur Kneeland and Wayne Baumann visted PIO XII in January and worked with the children.

The team shared that Señora Erenda believes the younger generation is very open to learning how to grow their own food in a sustainable way [and that] they can be trained to promote local production of food in local communities, providing food security to these rural areas.

Together, the children and volunteers built a square-foot garden at the home of a neighbor, and Señora Erenda demonstrated her extension skills by discussing composting and vegetable production.  With Señora Erenda's clear, step-by-step instructions, by the time the garden was installed it was apparent that the children and the neighbor were aware of the many details of how to care for a small garden.

The children were the ones actually setting up the garden, and their work was videotaped and will be available to future volunteers as a training tool.  The video demonstrates the correct process for creating a square-foot garden and also shows how children can be included in community garden projects.  In addition to the square-foot gardening, the children collected insects using sweep nets and discussed the importance of identifying beneficial insects.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Holistic Approach to Marketing Horticultural Products

Meeting with local greenhouse technicians
Mr. Willis Brown recently completed a Farmer to Farmer assignment in the Dominican Republic. He worked with female producers, farm technicians, extension advisors, packing house storage managers and directors of greenhouse clusters and groups. Mr. Brown was based in Santo Domingo but visited with producers in Constanza, Jarabacoa and San Jose de Ocoa. Producers led him on tours of their greenhouses and packing storage facilities and showed him the quality of vegetables available in local and regional markets.

Farmer to Farmer program in the Dominican Republic works on strengthening the marketing strategies used by local producers to enhance their accessability to domestic and export markets for greenhouse vegetables.  Mr. Brown wrote in his trip report,  It is very clear that the greenhouse vegetable producers have a basic understanding about production. The implementation of understanding the basics of vegetable production has thrust them into the first stages of domestic and international marketing. There is no turning back - the only direction is forward with a holistic approach to marketing.
Discussing greenhouse operations with local produer
This holistic approach involves all stakeholders and requires an analysis of all aspects of marketing.  Mr. Brown described the producers that he met as creative, risk takers, and determined to be successful. These are the main ingredients necessary to provide jobs for the men and women in the many villages and rural communities that have high levels of unemployment.  Involving these individuals in the agricultural sector provides them with social and economic stability.

Visiting local farmers markets
Mr. Brown mentioned that all of the stakeholders with whom he met agreed that their highest priority is to produce the best quality tomato, pepper and cucumber.  Their second priority is to sell the majority of their crops in the export/international markets.  And their third priority is to receive the highest price possible per pound of product. Mr. Brown's trainings and presentations focused on addressing concerns regarding: methods of greenhouse temperature control; how to prevent loss of product due to exteme temperature fluctuations; strategies for marketing in domestic and international markets; and the advantages of greenhouse vegetable growers associations.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wisconsin Beekeepers Share 60 Years of Experience with Nicaraguan Cooperatives

Judy and a local beekeeper display organic Nicaraguan honey.
From January 29th – February 12th, Bob and Judy Hoffman of Holmen, Wisconsin, visited and provided training to Nicaraguan beekeeping cooperatives in the departments of Managua, Leon, Boaco and Masaya. With 60 years of experience in the beekeeping industry – Bob as a part-time beekeeper and Judy in honey promotion and sales – the duo observed the cooperatives’ methods and gave presentations on feeding and nurturing bees, marketing organic honey, and the nutritional value of honey. Bob also discussed the potential benefits of using plastic hives rather than wood and raising queens, as many beekeepers expressed interest in these topics.  
Bob observes local beekeeping methods.
Reflecting on their two weeks in Nicaragua, Bob and Judy were impressed by the local beekeepers’ skill at managing Africanized bees; innovative experimentation with native, non-stinging bees; and the effort they put into making their own frames and wax foundations. They describe their assignment as a “wonderful and rewarding experience”.  To read more about the Hoffman’s trip to Nicaragua, click on this link to an article in the Onalaska Holmen Courier-Life.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Farmer to Farmer Success in the News!

The success of Partners of the Americas' Farmer to Farmer Program activities has recently been featured in the news!
  • The newly re-designed Farmer to Farmer page on the USAID website features a story about the difference that the FTF Beekeeping project has made over the years in the Haitian honey industry, and how these efforts have helped beekeepers improve their livelihoods. Click here to read the success story and get an update on this project, and don't forget to check out the new and improved website!
  • Media in St. Kitts and Nevis has featured a story about the expanding support of the Farmer to Farmer Program to the Community Achievers' Project on the islands. In this story on SKNlist, flex volunteer Ralph Bucca helps at-risk youth and local schools set up small, low-tech solar food dryers which bring big potential for micro-enterprise and school snacks.
This photo of FTF-Guyana volunteers Dr. Jaheon Koo and Dr. Obadiah Njue, from the University of Arkansas - Pine Bluff, is also included on the new USAID FTF website, in the "What have we accomplished" section.