Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Highlights of 2014

2014 has been a productive year for Partners' Agriculture and Food Security (AFS) Unit! Under the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program, 78 volunteers traveled to eight countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to work with close to 40 producer groups, NGOs, universities, and other hosts. They provided training in areas as diverse as business plan development, honey harvesting, animal nutrition, marketing of organic products, and much more, and directly assisted over 6,000 people. Partners' Haiti Nutrition Security Program, funded by USAID/Haiti as part of their Feed the Future Initiative, has recruited and is providing support to 1,548 Mother Leaders who have been organized into 144 Care Groups. Each Mother Leader is then responsible for leading local neighborhood women’s clubs, through which nutrition counseling and promotional support are provided to an additional 13,898 young pregnant and lactating mothers of children under the age of five. As a result, the project is now reaching over 15,446 neighborhood women households.

Below are some top stories and other highlights of 2014:

January
Partners has been supporting sustainable beekeeping in Jamaica since 2012, training local beekeepers in topics such as selective queen breeding, construction of top-bar hives, recordkeeping, and value-added products. Other activities have been constructing simple pollen traps, candle making, and building molds for making wax foundation. In this article, F2F volunteers Les Crowder and Laura Ferguson talk about their January trip to Jamaica and share their impressions of the beekeeping sector. You and also read more about Partners beekeeping work in Jamaica here.

February
Partners Haiti Nutrition Security Program is using the Care Group model to deliver trainings, provide services, and communicate good health and nutrition behavior messages. Mothers engage in conversations about attitudes, behaviors, and practices around health and nutrition. Some topics include which foods are safe to eat during pregnancy, portion sizes, and the need for family support for pregnant and lactating women. In this video, mothers sing about the main food groups and the importance of happiness and harmony in the household: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmdAFRFjVe0. Find out more at: www.haitinutrition.org.

March
Partners has been working with long-time volunteer Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak on assisting coffee producers in Haiti and she traveled in March to focus on marketing. Ms. Kaplan-Pasternak co-founded HaitiCoffee.com, which imports green coffee. What is most significant about Haiti Coffee is not only that is the result of cooperation between individuals and groups affiliated with Farmer-to-Farmer, 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. Buy some coffee today!

April
One of the highlights of F2F is often what volunteers are inspired to do after their assignment is completed. Ellen Lewis served as a volunteer in 2009, 2011, and 2013 and became interested in the role that gender plays in organizational development in Latin Americas. In March/April, she traveled to Nicaragua to conduct research on the role of women in the sustainability and impact of the F2F program and to train dairy cooperatives in organizational development. During her assignment, she introduced “feminist systems thinking” methodology and assisted cooperative members to identify methods to mitigate the barriers women face in gaining leadership roles. Ellen is now using this research to complete her PhD dissertation at Hull University in the UK.

May
In May, the USAID/Dominican Republic Mission officially approved Partners’ F2F strategy focused on protecting the Yaque del Norte watershed through effective soil, water, and natural resource management. The Yaque del Norte region is vital to the country’s production of bananas and other crops. However, unpredictable weather patterns and more frequent droughts, floods, and extreme weather have raised concern over the reduced quantity and quality of available water. Paul Wojtkowski was the first F2F volunteer to travel under this new strategy and he conducted workshops and presentations for 145 banana producers and strategic partners to increase their understanding of the factors that influence climate change, the impact climate change has on agriculture and forestry in the DR, and what farmers can do to best adapt to climate change at the farm, household, and community level.

June
Returned Peace Corps Volunteers make great F2F volunteers too, as we have learned over the years. So in June, Partners’ Senior Program Officer Courtney Dunham traveled to Nashville, Tennessee to promote Partners’ work in agriculture and food security at the 2014 Peace Corps Connect National Conference. Through outreach at conferences such as Peace Corps Connect, EcoFarm, and the World Food Prize, the F2F is able to recruit new volunteers and raise awareness of USAID international development efforts in the hemisphere.

July
Farmer-to-Farmer Supports the First Artificial Goat Insemination in Guatemala. In July, Partners’ Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Bill Knox made history by visiting the western highlands of Guatemala to provide the first-ever training on artificial goat insemination. Bill trained almost 100 producers, technicians, and veterinary students in two methods for artificial goat insemination. Bill’s training will help improve goat production in the country, which will thereby help improve families’ nutrition and food security through greater access to goat milk.

August
Partners' AFS team created a new Twitter handle: @PartnersAgFood. Follow us to find out the latest news about our programs but also about top issues in agriculture, food security, nutrition, and climate change. You can also follow this blog (farmertofarmer.blogspot.com) and the Haiti Nutrition blog (haitinutrition.org) for news and information.

September
AFS held a session at the Partners 50th Anniversary Convention and also presented a timeline highlighting news articles, social media, publications, historical photos, and other information showcasing the long history of agriculture and food security programs. Since it was founded in 1964, Partners has increased agricultural production, improved post-harvest handling, developed new products, strengthened agribusiness and cooperatives, increased sales and income, protected natural resources, and improved food security. The Farmer-to-Farmer Program also won an award for integrating development & volunteerism, the first award of its kind given to a staff team!

October
F2F volunteer Katherine Wingert worked with the Nicaraguan Dairy Sector Chamber (CANISLAC) in planning a campaign to increase the consumption of dairy products. While Nicaragua produces more dairy than any other country in Central America, local dairy consumption levels are very low. The new campaign will focus on yogurt and milk consumption among adolescents and mothers of young children in Managua. During her assignment, Ms. Wingert assisted 435 people (58% women) and was also interviewed on Nicaragua television as part of their coverage of World Food Day. (video in Spanish)

November
Feed the Future, the US government's global hunger and food security initiative, highlighted some of their work around the world focused on young people and universities. One important story focused on Farmer-to-Farmer and among the volunteers featured was Partners' volunteer Maggie Morse. Ms. Morse traveled to Boyacá, Colombia, in part to to support a young entrepreneur program run by the Government of Colombia’s National Learning Service (SENA). Read more about how the US government is supporting the next generation of agricultural leaders.

December
Addressing Climate Change in Partners' Farmer-to-Farmer Program. As the Conference on Climate Change in Lima comes to an end, Secretary John Kerry urged the world to think about the economic impacts of climate change on agriculture. Partners Farmer-to-Farmer program is taking strides to take this to heart in the Dominican Republic.

The Agriculture and Food Security Team is looking forward to 2015 and what we can continue to accomplish throughout the hemisphere!


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