Friday, June 28, 2013

Spotlight on Small Business Training: Haiti

Producers ready for training
Bill Nichols, a Boston-based marketing strategy consultant traveled to Haiti as a Farmer to Farmer volunteer in March 2013. For two weeks he trained more than 40 Haitian farmers and producers in basic business topics focusing on marketing, sales, and negotiating skills.

After determining the business training needs of Makouti members, Bill was able to design and deliver tools and training, such as conducting customer needs assessments. He also drafted a business plan in conjunction with Makouti and three leading poultry producers.

Bill found the assignment "highly satisfying", explaining that "the Makouti team is strong and was very supportive of my work. [...] I was impressed at the loyalty Makouti members gave to the organization. Clearly they appreciate the development the organization has provided them."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Impactful and Impacted: California Livestock Veterinarian Gives and Gains During His Assignment in Guyana, South America

Dr. Scott Haskell, Director of the Veterinary Technology Program at Yuba College in Marysville, California, recently traveled to Guyana, South America, where he provided training in topics related to herd health management and biosecurity.  Dr. Haskell was tasked with leading continuing education sessions for members of the Guyana Veterinary Association (GVA), the Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA), the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA), and the Public Health Section of the Ministry of Health, focusing on the following subjects, among others:

• Cattle and Ruminant Production & Clinical Examination
• Proper Use of Antibiotics in Veterinary Medicine
• Livestock Disease Control & Reporting
• Epidemiologic Surveillance and Disease Outbreak Investigation
• Global Climate Change & its Potential Impact on Disease Transmission
• Career & Training Opportunities Within the Veterinary Profession

Dr. Scott Haskell heads up Guyana's Berbice River
In addition to classroom-style trainings, Dr. Haskell's two-week stay in the "Land of Many Waters" included meetings with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Guyana Veterinary Surveillance; Diagnostic Lab Annex and Sample Processing Center, and the United Nations Development Program, as well as field visits to four dairy, beef and small ruminant farms. Over the course of his visit, Dr. Haskell provided training to 92 individuals.

Though Dr. Haskell had a clear impact on the professionals with whom he met, he also left the country impacted himself. "I feel that I learned more from my hosts than they from me", he recalls. "Yes, I was able to evaluate the veterinary issues of Guyana, but more importantly the people touched my soul in ways that I can never repay."

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Improving Horticulture Production and Marketing in Nicaragua

Farmer-to-Farmer recently sent two volunteers to work with horticulture project hosts in Nicaragua with the goal of improving the standard of living of vegetable producers. Historically, the production of vegetables is limited by low levels of agricultural technology, inadequate use of natural resources, low production value, and low budget in the production sector, as well as issues associated with agricultural methods and techniques, pest control, sickness, and poor post-management of crops. By helping producers make efficient use of the natural resources on their farms and providing specialized technical assistance, Farmer-to-Farmer aims to ensure food security and protect the health of producers and their families.

For two weeks in May, professor of community development Arlen Albrecht worked with producers, offering assistance in the areas of organic vegetable production, disease and insect control, square foot gardens, drip irrigation, jet stove making, and water harvesting/gravity fed drip irrigation systems. Working alongside him as a first-time volunteer, rural development outreach specialist Erin Peot provided assistance in the areas of business and marketing, local sales opportunities, and helping producers explore low cost value-added concepts.

Erin experienced first hand the challenges that come with the work Arlen has been doing since he took his first volunteer trip with Farmer-to-Farmer to Nicaragua in 1999. In the Buenos Aires/Villa del Carmen area residents were experiencing a drought. Many local water wells were dry, leaving the Mayra Mendoza community unable to maintain their kitchen gardens. Arlen responded by helping install a gravity fed drip irrigation system that saved both gas and river water. With more than a decade of volunteer experience in the region, Arlen explained, "I feel that although change is happening very slowly, the plight of the rural poor in Nicaragua is improving, and that F2F volunteers are contributing to that along with the hosts."

It was in Tecuantepe that Arlen and Erin visited "the most significant garden project witnessed to date". They were impressed, noting examples of various growing methods. Arlen provided instruction on tomato plant care and crop rotation, while Erin taught producers direct marketing concepts and helped them create a mixed-produce box to be marketed to university professors, students, and current clientele. "I had a wonderful experience in Nicaragua because of the Partners’ staff and the workshop participants," Erin told Farmer-to-Farmer.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Greenhouse Production with Asociación María Trinidad Sánchez

Prompted by a lack of economic opportunities for women, Asociación María Trinidad Sánchez was founded more than thirty years ago in San José de Ocoa, Dominican Republic. As one of the first of its kind in the province, the association provides women with a chance to improve their lives through pepper production. The female greenhouse producers receive support from Asociación para el Desarrollo de San José de Ocoa (ADESJO), a local organization of agricultural technicians who regularly visit and consult the women as they face challenges with the greenhouse. Farmer to Farmer volunteers have worked with both the women of Asociación María Trinidad Sánchez and the technicians of ADESJO, assisting with record keeping, organic pesticide production, and providing training in greenhouse safety and hygiene.

Greenhouse production has helped the women of the association become more financially independent, allowing them to contribute to their household income and invest in their families. The success of the greenhouse can be credited both to the innovative and visionary women and to their close relationship with ADESJO technicians. One María Trinidad Sánchez member explains the organization's success, “Yes we've been successful because, I would say that one of the major successes has been the training that we have been able to acquire through this project. And also, that we, the association ‘María Trinidad Sánchez', were the first women to start working with greenhouses. And through us, many women and many men have benefited."

An F2F volunteer discusses greenhouse production challenges with some of the women of the Asociación María Trinidad Sánchez.

In addition to greater economic stability, María Trinidad Sánchez group members expressed feelings of self-empowerment as a result of their participation in the association. As one technician stated, some of the women who were once timid are no longer afraid to express themselves. "And that is the social part, which they also have learned in these past years.” According to the technicians, there is a notable difference between the development and advancement of women's groups in San José de Ocoa and that of groups in other areas in the Dominican Republic. When asked what this can be traced back to, a technician readily answered: "This is through the same association, ADESJO, and F2F DR.”

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Water Quality Monitoring for Lake Nicaragua

Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Patrick Goggin worked with a team of Nicaraguan partners to implement a long-term water quality monitoring and conservation program for Lake Nicaragua. Goggin primarily worked with the partner organization, Fundación para el desarrollo, or FUPADE, which seeks to promote development for the people of Nicaragua through various means and with several focuses, from social inclusion to poverty reduction to sustainable economic development. Through the exchange of information and experience in the management of water resources and lakes, the sharing of ideas and effective models, field visits to potential pilot water quality monitoring stations, and by identifying the future Lake Nicaragua observatory, educational, and environmental monitoring center, Goggin's April 2013 trip created substantial progress.

Goggin (far left) and members of his team meet with local official
Mr. Mykel Morales Ruiz, in the town of Cardenas, one of the
three pilot water quality monitoring locations on Lake Nicaragua.
Lake Nicaragua is the largest freshwater aquatic ecosystem in the country and one of the largest in Central America, encompassing a rich aquatic biodiversity of plant and animal species. Because of its ecological, social, and economic importance, it is vital to protect Lake Nicaragua with a program that would include assorted water quality monitoring variables. Through an integrated management approach, the program seeks to inform the public and identify threats to the lake.

As a lake specialist with a focus on outreach at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Goggin utilized his professional experience and vast knowledge to create a new water quality monitoring program for Lake Nicaragua. He connected the Wisconsin Lakes Partnership/University of Wisconsin - Extension Lakes to FUPADE, working with them to prepare proposals for a collaborative program between the organizations, in hopes of creating a lasting partnership.