Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Partners F2F Volunteers in Action: A Snapshot from Nicaragua

This article is a contribution to a week-long blog carnival on USAID's John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program. From July 14-18, F2F program partners and US volunteers are sharing their knowledge and experience of providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. This blog carnival aims to capture and share this program experience. You can find all contributions on Agrilinks
F2F volunteers have a variety of experiences - some provide assistance directly on farms, others work with agribusinesses, some help universities develop curriculum, or assist the Ministry of Environment with a watershed survey, to name just a few. To have a glimpse into day-to-day activities of a volunteer, Partners is highlighting a team from Wisconsin who worked in Nicaragua:

Amelia Canilho and Jean Tice, both educators from Wisconsin, traveled to provide training in five community learning centers in Nicaragua. Over a period of 2 weeks they trained and assisted over 100 Nicaraguan youth and adults in home and small-scale vegetable production, family nutrition, food preservation, new food product development, value-added processing, and marketing.

Facilitating discussion on group square-foot gardening activities
One of the learning centers they worked with was located in Cedro Galán, a small community on the outskirts of Managua, which despite its closeness to the capital has a country feel: small houses set in medium-sized plots, mostly unpaved streets busy with people, dogs and japoneras - the local motorcycle taxis. This learning center serves approximately 20 women on average and provides craft and sewing classes to community members. The members reported currently having small "wild" gardens where they grew a few vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers, but explained that most vegetables still needed to be purchased at a high and often times unaffordable cost from the market. Because of this, they hoped improve their garden plots for both personal consumption and retail. Additionally, they were interested in learning about the nutritional benefits of food and ways to include more vegetables in their daily diet.

With this group's goals in mind, Amelia and Jean first provided training in small gardening and composting, followed by a lively question and answer session. With Amelia and Jean’s guidance, the group then developed their own garden plot plan. After completing their plan, they split up into two smaller groups. One group worked with Jean to plant a sample garden using seeds and seedlings acquired for this purpose, while the other group prepared a healthy meal with Amelia’s guidance.

Nutrition education training
While the second group cooked, Amelia taught them about the nutritional value of each item used. Once the meal was prepared, the two groups came together to enjoy it and share ideas about types of vegetables they could plant and begin to incorporate into their diets. The cooking team also had an opportunity to teach back everything they had learned to the rest of the group. The model garden looked good and the food tasted even better.

After reflecting on their trip Amelia and Jean shared the following: "As first-time volunteers we were both overwhelmed by the problems we encountered and amazed by the resilience and creative spirit of the people we met. The women and youth we met taught us the value of a word well-placed, a dream well-tended, and an idea worth supporting. The indomitable spirit of {the} leaders ... give us hope for the future of Nicaragua... Whilst reviewing the comments of our new friends in Nicaragua, we are heartened to think that we can make a difference in small ways and at a very human level. Caring does matter."

As aligned with Feed the Future, the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative, F2F works to support inclusive agriculture sector growth, facilitate private sector engagement in the agriculture sector, enhance development of local capacity and promote climate-smart development. Volunteer assignments address host-led priorities to expand economic growth that increases incomes and improves access to nutritious food.  Read more articles on this topic on Agrilinks. Also, make sure to subscribe to receive a daily digest in your inbox, for one week only! 

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