Thursday, July 17, 2014

Three Stories That Prove Farmer-to-Farmer Matters

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 American 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.

What difference can a F2F volunteer assignment make? Can volunteers really have a long-term impact? The three stories below show they can. Farmer-to-Farmer matters!

Dominican Republic: Women's Empowerment is the Key
Historically, women in the province of San Jose de Ocoa in the Dominican Republic have not had many economic opportunities. With the construction of a small greenhouse, however, the seven women who are members of the Maria Trinidad Sanchez Association are able to 'have something extra'. These women producers receive support from Asociación para el Desarrollo de San José de Ocoa (ADESJO), a local organization of agricultural technicians who regularly visit and assist them. The association members plus technicians from ADESJO have received training from F2F volunteers on a wide range of topics.

Working with F2F volunteers, the women have learned how to apply insecticides correctly, how to fertilize and irrigate, and how to control the temperature in the greenhouses. They also received F2F training in record-keeping and calculating profits and have been able to access loans that were not previously available to women. Greenhouse production has helped the Maria Trinidad Sanchez Association members become more financially independent, allowing them to contribute to their household income and invest in their families. 

But while the F2F technical training was beneficial, more than anything, the women expressed how valuable their self-empowerment was as a result of participation in the association. One member spoke of the pride she feels from being a female farmer, “Often the men said that we were not able to do work that a man does. And we, I say it is a great satisfaction. Because if we are looking for equity and we already do jobs that men do....well for us it has been a great opportunity.” While the greenhouse production itself may have its ups and down, the empowerment and confidence of the group members is an impact that will last a lifetime.

Haiti: Hives = Houses
There was a time when Haitian beekeeper Noe Brazier lost 75 hives to the varroa mite. Noe recalls visits from F2F volunteers like Don Hopkins who helped him identify the parasite that was destroying his bees. The varroa mite had been virtually unknown in Haiti - and therefore untreated. Beekeepers who were losing hives often had no idea why. Don Hopkins was one of the volunteers who traveled multiple times to Haiti to teach people how to identify it and then demonstrated proper hive treatments to address the problem.

After receiving these trainings, Noe felt more at ease raising his bees. He was also able to earn more income. As he improved as a beekeeper, he started not just selling honey but also selling well constructed hives and starter hives (with bees in them) to other beekeepers. These activities really helped him move forward and he credits F2F for improving his life, enabling him to send his children to school, and helping him to build his new house, among other things. In this video clip below, Noe shares some of the impact F2F, Benito Jasmin (local F2F coordinator), and local F2F partner Makouti Agro Enterprise have had on him.

Nicaragua: What a Difference Cilantro Makes
One simple F2F volunteer recommendation changed the life of Señora Erenda Lopez of Masaya, Nicaragua. Years ago, a F2F volunteer recommended she plant cilantro seeds in her back yard. She did so successfully and soon had expanded to new crops and increased her production. Erenda's dedication to her community is as strong as her dedication to her farm so she was inspired to start El Centro de Aprendizaje Pio XII - a learning center that trains community members - primarily women - on a variety of things but especially agriculture.

Señora Erenda Lopez (in pink) with F2F volunteers and family members.
Today, Pio XII trains thousands of women on small-scale organic production methods. These women then return to their own communities to start organic gardens and continue training other female farmers. Since becoming involved with F2F, Erenda has not just improved her farm, started her own nursery business, and established the training center but she is also now an agricultural and climate-change education consultant for women’s groups, agricultural organizations, government ministries and schools, and was appointed to an advisory position with her local government. What a change a volunteer recommendation can make!

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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