Wednesday, March 26, 2014

F2F Overview Video

Take a moment to watch this short video about the global Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program! Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), F2F promotes sustainable economic growth, food security, and agricultural development worldwide. Partners of the Americas currently implements F2F in Latin America and the Caribbean, working primarily in Nicaragua, Haiti, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic. Through the program, U.S. agricultural volunteers share their knowledge on an individual basis to help increase farm production and farmer incomes while preserving the natural resource base. U.S. volunteers participating in F2F spend two to four weeks on assignment working directly with local counterparts in Latin America and the Caribbean to address previously identified local needs. Technical assistance is focused on agricultural commodity chains, from field to market, addressing bottlenecks wherever they are identified. This video provides a great overview of the work F2F does around the world. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Improving Dairy Production During Nicaragua’s Dry Season

In general, there are only two seasons in Nicaragua: the “dry season” and the “wet season.” The wet season is characterized by strong downpours that allow plants and flowers to thrive and cattle to have enough pasture to graze. However, water becomes very scarce during the dry season. This is a particular problem in Jicaro, Nicaragua where community members rely on homemade cheese as their primary source of animal protein. During the dry season when forage is scarce, their cattle suffer from low dairy production.

The dry season negatively affects milk production in Nicaragua.
In March, returned F2F volunteer Arlen Albrecht, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Extension (UWEX), traveled to Nicaragua to provide technical assistance on improved dairy production and dairy cattle management during the dry season. During this time, dairy cows are typically fed corn stalks, dried corn husks, and dried sorghum. Arlen stressed the importance of supplementing these diets with other nutrients, as well as water, in order to increase milk production. He assisted the National Cattlemen Commission of Nicaragua (CONOGAN) in a workshop on making mineral and protein lick blocks. Dry matter, calcium, cement, urea, and molasses are packed into a pail until solid and then left to dry. Animals then lick the surface of the block to obtain essential minerals and nutrients. Mineral and protein licks are a low-cost way to supply protein to cattle. 

Community members learn how to make a mineral/protein lick.
Another way to contribute to cattle health is improved pastures. Arlen engaged producers in a conversation about the feed value and zone suitability of certain grasses and small bush plants. The group discussed leaves, stems, and seeds that could contribute to enriching pastures and identified specific plants that could grow well in the area. By diversifying options for cattle feed, producers can ensure prolonged animal health and potentially increase cows’ milk production.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Haiti Coffee

Benito Jasmin, F2F Haiti coordinator, examining coffee seedlings 
First-time F2F volunteer Katyana Andre and long-time volunteer Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak are currently in Haiti assessing coffee production and marketing in target regions. They're focused specifically on individual cooperatives in the North. While coffee from Haiti has long been exported, the quality of coffee in certain regions has not been up to international standards. Haitian coffee is facing considerable agricultural challenges with pests (including CBB and rust), the infrastructure for processing coffee is often in disrepair, and cupping evaluation scores are frequently low. Additionally, many Haitian cooperatives and producers have a poor understanding of quality standards for export. By interacting with these individual groups and visiting their operations, these F2F volunteers can gain a better understanding of the steps necessary for improving coffee quality and develop cost-analyses of coffee production and potential export for producers.

Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak with Haitian workers sorting coffee beans
It was while working with host Makouti Agro Enterprise, that Dr. Kaplan-Pasternak realized the potential for high quality Haitian coffee in the international market. She and fellow volunteer Yves Gourdet, a US businessman and Haitian native, developed a business plan and launched, Inc. In the first year, Haiti Coffee imported 11,000 lbs of coffee, ending the year with a small profit, and was extended a line of credit from a private supporter. The next year, Haiti Coffee imported a full shipping container of coffee and expanded to a second production site. Coffee bean sales have now impacted the lives of nearly 3,000 farming families in Haiti, and the company has started reintroducing Haitian coffee to the world. 

What is most significant about Haiti Coffee is not only that is the result of cooperation between individuals and groups affiliated with F2F, but also that it is working to build a sustainable network to support viable, income-generating agricultural opportunities for Haitian farmers, and moving up the value chain to access a larger market.

Visit the F2F blog again soon for an update on Ms. Andre's and Dr. Kaplan-Pasternak's work in Haiti!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Climate Change in the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic (DR) is one of the top ten most affected countries in the world by extreme weather and natural disasters. In recent years, global climate change (GCC) has led to more frequent and severe droughts, floods, and storms throughout the country. The map, courtesy of the USAID Dominican Republic Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment Report conducted in September 2013, shows the areas most susceptible to flooding and storm surges; and also highlights the key watersheds. 

The DR’s agricultural sector is particularly vulnerable to GCC. In 1998, Hurricane George destroyed approximately one third of the country’s crops, totaling losses of approximately $278 million. In 2007, Tropical Storm Noel destroyed a significant proportion of the country’s plantain and vegetable crops. These extreme natural disasters reduce crop yields and compromise the nation’s food security.

Peggy Carlson and Courtney Dunham in the
F2F Country Office in the Dominican Republic.
Additionally, the effects of GCC on water quantity and quality are a major concern in the DR. This is especially true for the Yaque del Norte watershed - highlighted above - which supplies water to over 2 million people. Partners’ Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program seeks to help address these challenges. Senior Director of Agriculture and Food Security Peggy Carlson and Senior Program Officer Courtney Dunham traveled to the DR to meet with key stakeholders in-country. Ms. Dunham continued on in the DR to explore areas of need for technical assistance to increase the resilience of Dominicans to the impacts of GCC. Some potential areas for technical assistance identified by local groups include effective watershed management, the integration of climate change adaptation strategies into organization’s operational plans, and promotion of climate-smart agricultural techniques and technologies.

We hope to find ways to help to address this important problem in the Dominican Republic and elsewhere in the region!