Friday, May 31, 2013

HORTICULTURE HIGHLIGHTS: Recent Horticulture Activities Across the Caribbean Basin

This week, we'd like to highlight the meaningful work our horticulture volunteers have been carrying out in the field. The following photo "spotlights" feature April and May 2013 volunteers who traveled to Belize, Guyana, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic to work on horticulture assignments.

BELIZE: Dr. Paul McLeod

Dr. Paul McLeod of Fayetteville, Arkansas, was in southern Belize from March 16 - April 27, where he was hosted by the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) and the National 4-H Center. Dr. McLeod provided training in soil fertility, vegetable production, and pest management to residents of 8 villages, spoke with students from 6 technical high schools about agricultural production and the benefits of backyard gardening, and provided training to the 4-H Center staff on best practices in educating youth about vegetable production and nutrition.

Dr. McLeod poses with students from the local 4-H program

GUYANA: Dr. Juliet Niehaus

Dr. Juliet Niehaus of Tucson, Arizona, was in Guyana from April 4 - 20 to provide Horticulture Therapy training to volunteers at Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) centers in East Coast and East Bank Demerara. Dr. Niehaus is Director of Horticulture Therapy at the Tucson Botanical Gardens, and CBR requested her assistance to establish the foundation for Horticulture Therapy programs at CBR East Coast and East Bank.

Dr. Niehaus visits the home of CBR East Coast member, Juanita

NICARAGUA: Dr. Carol Miles and Ms. Patricia Kreider

Dr. Carol Miles and Ms. Patricia Kreider of Mount Vernon, Washington, were in Nicaragua from April 8 - 22 to provide training in vegetable grafting.  The team worked with 88 small-scale growers and agricultural trainers on the basics of grafting tomato, pepper and watermelon so that can more easily overcome soil borne diseases and increase vegetable yield and quality.  Take a look at our blog post from May 6 featuring their assignment!

Dr. Miles and Ms. Kreider demonstrate grafting to women
growers and F2F Field Officer, Elisa Estrada

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC:  Dr. Tom Evans, Dr. Wally Pill and Dr. Cliff Keil

Doctors Tom Evans and Wally Pill of Delaware and Dr. Cliff Keil who resides in Quito, Ecuador, arrived to the Dominican Republic on May 19 and will remain through June 4 to conduct trainings in microgreen production and pest and disease control, and to provide greenhouse management support.

The team introduces Ministry of Agriculture
extensionists and producers to the GIS pest monitoring

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Coffee Production: A Haiti Volunteer's Experience

As an experienced specialist in crop production and farming systems for sustainable agriculture, Jean Tsafack-Djiague joined the Farmer to Farmer program as a volunteer in Haiti, helping local communities of coffee producers. By creating short and long term goals to overcome the challenges of coffee production, Jean drew on his past experiences. For over a decade he has empowered farmers to produce high quality market adapted products, in line with sustainable agricultural development. Having developed and implemented 38 integrated projects, Jean supports rural organizations by combining his knowledge of sustainable management of natural resources and organic production for foreign markets.

Jean (in khaki hat) discusses coffee production with farmers in Haiti
The son of a coffee producer, Jean has 7 hectares of land in Cameroon, which he uses for growing organic coffee. Faced with terrible coffee quality in the country, Jean worked with various people in the production chain, ultimately organizing growers into cooperatives, training them on organic production, and helping them get certified and sell their product in the U.S.

Volunteering in Haiti, Jean traveled from farm to farm, working with coffee producers on an individual basis. After conversing with them and understanding their difficulties, Jean trained the farmers in a group setting, providing knowledge on the production cycle of the coffee plant, reviewing production and protection aspects, and creating a set of possible strategic actions. He found that one issue many of the farmers face is the destruction of their plants due to "Eskolit Kafe" (Hypothenemus hampei), commonly known as the Coffee Berry Borer (CBB), an insect responsible for the loss of as much as 65% of Haiti's coffee crops. Due to Haiti's geographic location, it is increasingly affected by climate change, as rising temperatures contribute to CBB attacks on coffee. Jean and the Haitian coffee producers decided that shade is an effective method for not only protecting the crops from CBB, but also increasing yield production since the shade is agreeable to coffee plant growth. 

While in the mountainous town of Saut Mathurin, Jean visited several plantations before meeting with eleven farmers. Jean asked them to join a group of coffee farmers in Pico for a combined community training session. 97 coffee producers attended the meeting, creating a serious platform to discuss their shared challenges. Jean explains, "I saw different communities coming together as one person, pursuing one goal after my presentation. They finally voted and established a Reflection Committee of 9 persons to lead the project and move forward. Most importantly, I heard them saying: 'we are ready to start a new life with coffee production.'"

With fluency in French, an ability to bridge education levels, cultures, and backgrounds, and his passion for community development and knowledge of coffee production, Jean made a lasting impact on the Haitian people with whom he worked.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rutgers Professor Works with Guyanese Small-Scale Shadehouse Farmers

Rutgers University's Office of Communications recently published an article about Farmer to Farmer volunteer Robin Brumfield. A specialist in farm management, with 35 years of experience in greenhouse production and management, Brumfield is an educator of small farmers as well as professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. "Rutgers Professor Returns to South America to Train Small-Scale Shadehouse Farmers" explains how Brumfield's work in Guyana was focused on hydroponics and shadehouse vegetable production, also with emphasis on product marketing. “What stood out for me was the sacrifice that so many of the small farmers had to make to produce their crops and get them to the market, especially those in the remote areas,” said Brumfield. “Their interest in learning all they can to make their small-scale operation profitable was well worth my trip and I was grateful to the Farmer to Farmer program for allowing me to share my expertise.” Brumfield will return to Guyana for two weeks this summer to further assist small farmers with their businesses.
This photo was provided by the Office of Communications at Rutgers University. Robin Brumfield, center, pictured with Lilawatie "Anna" Bridglall, a shadehouse vegetable producer, and Mike Harker, a former Peace Corp volunteer and visiting business management consultant with the Farmer to Farmer project.

The article can be found here:

Monday, May 6, 2013

Introducing Vegetable Grafting to Small-Scale Farmers in Nicaragua

Carol Miles and Patti Kreider recently completed a vegetable grafting assignment in Nicaragua.  Carol Miles is a vegetable horticulture professor at Washington State University's Northwest Washington Research & Extension Center. Carol and Patti provided technical training to small-scale growers and agricultural trainers on the basics of grafting tomato, pepper and watermelon with the goal being to overcome vegetable production constraints, such as soil borne diseases and increase vegetable yield and quality.
Patti Kreider and Carol Miles with the Asociacion Trabajadores del Campo in Mayas, Nicaragua
The team provided written materials, lectures, discussions, hands-on training and supplies for tomato and pepper splice and cleft grafting at 7 locations to a total of 88 trainees, along with trainings for cucurbit (i.e. watermelons, cucumbers) grafting at 2 locations.  The printed materials used by Dr. Miles for the trainings on vegetable grafting were translated by the F2F field staff in Nicaragua, they hope to have these technical resources published by Washington State University and making them available online to download for free. 

Patti & Carol provided hands-on grafting training with predesigned seedlings
Even though almost all training participants had never heard of vegetable grafting prior to their training events, Carol and Patti, shared that "all participants appeared to be interested and enthusiastic about the potential usefulness of this technique given their production limitations, particularly soil-borne diseases. This attitude on their part was greatly influenced by their very positive experience with the use of grafting for tree fruit production."  The team built on this positive experience to introduce vegetable grafting, the advantages of this new practice and how it can be used effectively.  Carol and Patti also noted how impressed they were with the many woman that walked quite a long distance to attend one of their trainings in Esquipulas, some had walked 2 hours.  This showed the strong interest in learning and a desire for new practices that could help many of these single mothers find a way to improve their production, feed their families and have left over crop to sell.
Patti & Carol with Women's group in Esquipulas
The Farmer to Farmer field office was also asked to have Carol and Patti train Peace Corps Volunteers on vegetable grafting.  Carol is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Peace Corps-Cameroon), and began the training by discussing her career path from undergraduate student, to a Peace Corps Volunteer to associate professor at Washington State University.  She provided background information on the development of vegetable grafting worldwide, hands-on vegetable grafting demonstration and extensive questions and answers regarding rootstocks and also exploring ways to use locally available resources.  Patti and Carol noted that the trainees appeared to be very enthusiastic about the potential of utilizing vegetable grafting in their assignments and disseminating this new information to the farmers in their assigned communities.

Patti with Peace Corps Volunteers in Selva Negra