Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Happy World Food Day!

In Latin America and the Caribbean, although the average standard of living has increased in recent decades, income inequality remains widespread. Impoverished people, particularly in rural areas, still face many barriers to achieving food security, which is defined as having access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life. Food insecurity is particularly a concern for low-income countries where Partners works, such as Haiti and Nicaragua, which are ranked as the poorest and second poorest, respectively, in the Western Hemisphere.

In Nicaragua, many families subsist on just a few dollars a day and consume disproportionate amounts of corn, beans, and rice, rather than fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods. Seeds are unaffordable or inaccessible due to transportation barriers and adequate knowledge, funds, and resources for seasonal fruit and vegetable preservation are limited. Many rural and food insecure families do not own canning or drying equipment, and without electricity in some homes, freezing or refrigerating surplus food is not an option. Unsafe drinking water also poses a food safety risk, particularly for babies and young children with developing immune systems.

In Haiti, poor households continue to suffer from significant nutrition insecurity. Vulnerable households don’t just lack access to a diverse range of nutritious foods; family members are also missing vital knowledge about appropriate health and nutrition behaviors and how to apply them. Some of these behaviors include best practices for infant and young child feeding, maternal nutrition, prevention of diseases like diarrheal disease, malaria, and parasitic infections, and proper hygiene and sanitation. In Haiti, community structures that support optimal maternal and child health and nutrition practices are limited in their capacity, and rural poor communities remain generally underserved by the formal public health system. All of these factors result in a high prevalence of undernutrition among women and infants. 

Through trainings and technical assistance, Partners Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program and Haiti Nutrition Security Program (NSP) are playing a significant role in tackling some of these issues. In Nicaragua, F2F volunteers have held workshops on vegetable gardening, nutrition, and how to incorporate new foods into one’s diet in a way that’s appealing to children and hesitant adults. Families also learned about food dehydration and blanching techniques using a wood stove oven, which is commonly found in Nicaraguan kitchens.

 In Haiti, the newly launched Nutrition Security Program hinges on a holistic community health, nutrition and livelihoods approach. Activities include training healthcare workers and community members to improve their knowledge and behavior surrounding health and nutrition. Other activities will promote income generation and food security through seed banks, nurseries, and animal husbandry, particularly among women. By partnering with local Haitian counterparts, the NSP will ensure that its activities and strategies meet the specific needs of malnourished populations, since each region of the country is culturally and economically distinct. 

Increasing education and awareness about food systems in impoverished communities is an important step towards addressing nutritional deficiencies, promoting better health, generating family income, and developing local economies. World Food Day is a perfect opportunity to bring these issues to light and demonstrate the impactful work that Partners has accomplished. Although many challenges still remain, through volunteer visits, technical assistance and training, Partners' Agriculture and Food Security programs are making a long-term impact on the people they serve.

To find out more about World Food Day, please visit http://www.worldfooddayusa.org/

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Got Milk? Nicaragua’s Dairy Producers show Substantial Improvements as a Result of F2F Program

As the current Farmer to Farmer (F2F) program cycle comes to a close, F2F staff are taking a look back at the impacts volunteer visits have had on agriculture and food security in Latin America and the Caribbean over the past five years.  In Nicaragua, volunteer expertise has been concentrated in dairy and horticulture – two agricultural industries that make up a large portion of the country’s economy.  Two farmers from the dairy-producing region of Camoapa, Boaco who have worked with several F2F volunteers over the course of the program and, as a result, have shown impressive improvements in production and nutrition on their farms are Josefa Miranda and Edmundo Robleto.

Josefa Miranda is a female dairy farmer who has been working with F2F since January of 2010.  Two of her main objectives when beginning her collaboration with F2F were to improve fodder used as livestock feed and increase milk production on her farm.  Several F2F volunteers worked one-on-one with Josefa and her son over the course of nearly four years, providing technical assistance to improve livestock practices such as rotational grazing, decreasing pasture size, providing mineral supplements, and keeping a registry of farm activities.  She also learned how to test for mastitis – a bacterial condition that causes inflammation of the udder and lowers milk quality – which has allowed her to identify sick cows and treat them accordingly.  Josefa now produces greater quantities of more nutritious fodder and has a healthier, more productive herd.
Dairy Producer Josefa Miranda and family members
Dr. Edmundo Robleto, Camoapa’s newly-elected mayor, has also been working with F2F for almost four years.  His goals when starting the program were to improve livestock nutrition, genetics, and milk production.  With volunteer help, Dr. Robleto has introduced new species of fodder on his farm and is better able to store it, providing more nutritious food year-round for pregnant and milk-producing cows.  He also crossed a new bovine race with his herd to improve genetics that affect production levels and the animal’s adaptability to varying climatic conditions.  Dr. Robleto's main objectives while working with the program have been met, and with his newfound status as mayor, he can now more easily disseminate this knowledge to other producers in the community, producing a domino effect of improved dairy production for the region at-large.

Dr. Edmundo Robleto and his wife

Friday, October 4, 2013

F2F Focus on “Tecnicos” in the Dominican Republic Key to Improvements in Farm & Greenhouse Management


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.”