Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Farmer-to-Farmer Interviews

While they were visiting Washington, DC recently, several Farmer-to-Farmer Field Staff members and one of our volunteers were interviewed about their involvement in the program. Click on the video below to find out more!

Friday, July 19, 2013

In Their Own Words....

The Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program is not just about improving economic growth and agriculture in Latin America and the Caribbean - it is about connecting people and organizations to make a difference. As one producer in Guyana put it - "You have to meet with people if you want to change the world.” Hearing about F2F directly from field staff, volunteers, local partners, and hosts can be powerful. Below are some quotes from interviews and focus groups in Haiti, Dominican Republic, Guyana and Nicaragua.

Economic impact...

“Before [Makouti and F2F] started helping me, my level was very low. That is to say I couldn’t produce. I wasn’t making any money. Now, I am working for an organization that pays me [well], and I have a lot of bees now. I travel to the US because of my business in apiculture, my whole family gets job from that, I pay for schooling for kids, my everyday living is because of the grace of F2F and Makouti.“ -F2F Host, Haiti

“I'll tell you an example, with the first harvest of avocado, I remodeled my house. And so the benefits are visible and continue to be seen.”-F2F Host, Dominican Republic

“Before, we did not see the importance of being sanitary. Now we see that if you do it, it will increase the quality of milk and we will sell more. We’d still be receiving very low prices for our milk if it wasn’t for F2F.” –F2F Host, Nicaragua

“It has helped me send all my kids to school. I do a lot of activities with the money from the honey. I thought this could not help me take care of my family but now I am taking care of other families.”-F2F Host, Haiti

“The project opportunities are expanding.  As the program grows, and with market expansion continuing, the positive impact will be not only for growers, but for citizen health and economic benefits for the country.” -F2F Volunteer, Guyana

Gender roles...

“The men are in charge of taking decisions on what to do with money because they are making the money. In this case we are changing their minds because the women are making the money.”-F2F In-Country Staff, Nicaragua

“My perception and assumption is that the activity of asking poor women their opinion was very significant. It appears that was new to them, that their opinion had never really been asked as seriously in the context of that work.”-F2F Volunteer, Dominican Republic

Changing lives...

“F2F is very much a big part of who I am. The experiences over the years, all our travels, will live with me for a very long time”.-Former F2F Field Officer, Guyana

“I love the fact that I can get up in the morning and work and at the end of it you know why you’re working. At the end of it you sell and you have something growing for you. That is a motivating factor.”-F2F Host, Guyana

“[F2F] has helped me to develop more of a business way of doing things and more commitment in terms of having my own business.  I really love the idea of having my own business.  I am very satisfied with what I have reached so far.”-F2F Host, Guyana

“I can tell you that the Partners group in Nicaragua and those in Washington have been fabulous. I felt that my visits there were the most effective F2F trips .. I felt my time was utilized effectively.”-F2F Volunteer, Nicaragua

And so on...  Read more about F2F on this blog or visit www.partners.net.

Monday, July 15, 2013

F2F Field Staff Travel to Washington, DC for Training

The 2013 Farmer-to-Farmer Field Staff Workshop was a wonderful way to reflect on the past 5 years of the program's success. From July 9-12 Farmer-to-Farmer headquarter staff Peggy Carlson, Meghan Olivier, Marcela Trask, and Christine McCurdy hosted field staff from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Guyana in Washington, D.C. The University of Wisconsin-Extension (UWEX) team joined the headquarters staff and field officers to provide much needed assistance with monitoring and evaluation. As this cycle of the program comes to a close, field staff will be busily working to collect final qualitative and quantitative data. Program Officer Christine McCurdy exclaimed, "I give a lot of credit to UWEX for helping all of us better understand what information we need to collect for our final report and how it can be collected effectively, appropriately, and efficiently."

Pictured: Field staff from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Guyana, as well as Washington, D.C. headquarter staff attending a breakfast held by Partners of the Americas for the 2013 Farmer to Farmer Field Staff Workshop.
During the Workshop each team gave a brief presentation about their country's success, presented plans for the final round of data collection, and reviewed the various impact indicators. After four days of hard work everyone enjoyed lunch at the Supreme Court cafeteria followed by a tour of the U.S. Capitol. That evening many of the field staff attended a DC United game before departing the next day for their respective countries. The Workshop gave Farmer-to-Farmer staff a chance to meditate on 5 years of hard work and dedication, to determine how to best demonstrate their success, and to celebrate the program's many accomplishments.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Personal Account by Compost Specialist Herbe Zapata

In 2011 Mr. Zapata earned his Veteran's Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT) certification. Certified as an Agricultural Irrigation Specialist, he also has his Food Manager Handler’s license and is experienced in the areas of integrated pest management and small business administration. He has also earned certifications as a Master Gardner and Master Composter. F2F volunteer, Herbe Zapata shares with us a personal narrative of the first week of his June 2013 trip to Dominican Republic.

Herb Zapata leading a session with producers in El Cercado
I arrived in the Dominican Republic on June 15 and was driven out to El Cercado in San Juan de la Maguana. I went to La Hermita where I conducted a composting and vermiculture lesson and built a shadehouse. I also built a pen on the ground to keep the worms in with cow manure, explaining the importance of a three layer bin and how to keep areas separate on the second level with food and paper. Sunday I traveled to the villages Los Tablones de Batista and Derrumbadero, where I assessed the open field irrigation systems. One issue I encountered was a pig living on the the hill on top of the spring where the community gets its water for crops. I advised them that this was unsanitary because it leeches downstream through the soil. Hopefully they can address this problem with the owner and mediate the situation. Monday and Tuesday I visited the villages of Pinal Grande, Boca del Humo, and La Rancha, assisting horticulturalists with their greenhouses, shadehouses, and worm hoop houses. I was pleased to see that Pinal Grande had lots of worms in their manure pile, keeping them sufficiently moist, as previously advised. I was asked to do a symposium the next three days for farmers from all the nearby villages: Wednesday on compost and vermiculture; Thursday on integrated pest management; and Friday on organization financial structure. I worked with the community providing technical assistance, practical hands-on experience, and sharing my knowledge of how to sell directly to customers, through farmers' markets and CSAs.

I must say my experience has been warm and heartfelt. I’ll always think of the people in these remote villages and their need for a just and leveled system across the board. This bi-national island is like the rest of the world, they have borders by land or sea, and immigrants trying to cope with a global economy.