|Claire (far right) with F2F field officer Mabel Barinas and producers|
Producers affiliated with the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program in the Dominican Republic (DR) have shown impressive improvements in the past five years, according to a recent trip report by Claire Clugston, an experienced development practitioner in the DR. Claire has been affiliated with the F2F program for over a year, initially as a graduate intern in the Washington, D.C. office and later as a volunteer with the University of Wisconsin helping with monitoring and evaluation efforts in the DR – the same country where she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) for three and a half years. Because of Claire’s Spanish language skills and familiarity with development work in the DR, she was able to get a true grasp on how F2F’s approach there has contributed towards sustainable agricultural development.
During Claire’s volunteer visit this past August, she made several important observations regarding the positive impact F2F has had in the country. As a PCV, she understands the difficulties of doing sustainable development work in a place where project beneficiaries have become accustomed to receiving handouts rather than long-term investments in technical training and capacity building. With F2F, however, Claire was impressed by the program’s focus on training agricultural extension workers (known as “tecnicos”) and institutions so that they, in turn, are able to disseminate new information to hundreds of farmers in neighboring communities.
|Claire (center left) with women's group in San Jose de Ocoa|
Through data collection and analysis of recommendations adopted by host organizations, Claire noticed the vast improvements producers made in farm and greenhouse management as a result of the technical assistance they received from host organizations. Among those improvements was the widespread adoption of integrated pest management – a pest control strategy that has improved production using fewer pesticides and has allowed farmers to increase their incomes and decrease environmental harm. “A small but well-run establishment”, Claire noted, “will be more profitable than a large but badly managed farm… Knowledge, rather than technology or size, is what is most important for producer success.”