Thursday, August 28, 2014

Farmer-to-Farmer Supports the First Artificial Goat Insemination in Guatemala

In July 2014, Partners of the Americas’ 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. Months of preparation by both Bill and his host organization, CEPROCAL-Altiplano (run by Save the Children), went into his assignment. From January to April, Bill conducted research on the restrictive Guatemalan import protocols for goat semen to ensure he would be able to successfully import 120 breeding units of frozen goat semen. He also sent photos and instructions to CEPROCAL to construct a simple breeding stand made of local materials that would be used to restrain the goats during insemination. His assignment was also timed so that he would arrive when the goats were in heat.

F2F volunteer, Bill Knox, arrives with 115 pounds of
instruments, supplies, and 120 units of frozen goat semen

Given the urgent need to improve the food security of thousands of rural families in Guatemala, Save the Children and the Agros Foundation developed a program to develop a goat milk production center in the department of Quiché. They founded CEPROCAL-Altiplano that trains technicians and hundreds of farmers in the management and production of dairy goats. The goal of CEPROCAL-Altiplano is to have approximately 320 goats on-site with a daily production of 700 liters of milk that will be used to improve the nutrition of local families and also to make dairy products such as cheese and yogurt. CEPROCAL-Altiplano also seeks to provide breeding stock to improve the genetic quality of native goats in the surrounding communities, thereby increasing milk production. There are approximately 2,200 female goats in the local communities that are involved in this program.


Veterinary students learn about artificial goat
insemination at the University of San Carlos
Bill trained almost 100 producers, technicians, and veterinary students in two methods for artificial goat insemination. He also provided training on the use of estrus and ovulation synchronization and how to complete internal parasite assessments. Artificial insemination can be as effective as natural breeding by local bucks but the offspring of AI bucks will have superior genetics. This means that 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.

Bill also got a chance to visit some of the villages involved in the program and was impressed with how successful the program has been despite only being in existence for eight years. He notes that they are not only teaching children and their families to drink goat milk, but also how to raise goats and take care of them. On his assignment, Bill states, “There was earnest interest in the subject of AI and ovulation and estrus synchronization by faculty, students, and producers. . . This was a wonderful learning experience, and I hope the information I delivered will be helpful. Guatemala is a great country that is full of promise”.

Practicing artificial goat insemination at CEPROCAL
At a smallholder family farm that has received a doe from the
goat production program in Guatemala

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Call for Volunteers!

Partners' Farmer-to-Farmer program is currently recruiting volunteers for several open assignments in the Dominican Republic and Guatemala. Please see a list of volunteer opportunities below. As always, our in-country bilingual field staff coordinate logistics and F2F covers all travel, housing, food, and other related costs. 

Please contact Courtney Dunham at for more information on the below assignments.

Dominican Republic:

Specialist in soil conservation and agroforestry (2-4 weeks in late October through mid-December):
A specialist in soil conservation and agroforestry is needed to work with the NGO, Plan Yaque, in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic. The volunteer should have experience in implementing soil conservation practices on stepped slopes for hillside production (i.e., dead and live barriers). The volunteer will train farmers and technicians on improved soil management and erosion control and appropriate methods and techniques for sustainable production of crops on hillsides. The volunteer will also complete an assessment of the current soil and environmental management of hillside farms in Jarabacoa and identify opportunities for improved soil conservation practices that are economically and environmentally feasible for the area.
Banana production specialist (2-4 weeks in October through December 2014):
A professional with experience in banana production and cultivation is needed to assist banana producers in identifying potential problems and solutions related to: 1) planting and plantation development; 2) production and productivity, 3) organic and conventional fertilization; 4) pest and disease management; and 5) climate risks in banana production. Expected deliverables are a set of recommendations per farm visited on ways to increase production and/or address problems related to banana production.

Expert in disaster risk management (2-4 weeks in October through December 2014):
An expert in disaster risk management is needed to train banana producers on strategies to mitigate their risk to the impacts of hurricanes, flooding, and other climate change effects. The volunteer will train 30 technicians from four banana associations on mitigation measures they can take to increase their resilience to the impacts of climate change and will support them in developing an adaptation strategy.


Ornamental plant disease and pest management expert (2-3 weeks in October, October 19-31 is ideal):
An expert with a PhD in plant pathology or entomology and/or with experience in pest and disease management is needed to train farmers on methods to reduce the incidence of pests and diseases on ornamental plants that are exported to the United States. Expected deliverables are a manual on the treatment of specific pests and diseases and conventional and non-conventional management options as well as a Farmer-to-Farmer trip report.
F2F Guatemala field staff (from left to right):
Andrea Herrera (admin assistant), Andrea Fión (field officer),
Abraham Jarquin (field officer), and José Cano (Country Coordinator)

Ornamental flower fertilization and irrigation specialist (2-3 weeks in November or December; November 23 to December 6 is ideal):
A professional with experience in fertilization, soil and analysis, and irrigation for ornamental flower production is needed to train producers in low-cost irrigation and organic fertilization methods. Expected deliverables are a manual on best practices in irrigation and fertilization of ornamental flowers and a Farmer-to-Farmer trip report.

Market research and analysis expert (2-4 weeks in February 2015):
A volunteer with experience conducting market research and analysis is needed to assist a small mushroom production company in identifying niche markets and opportunities for the export of natural, organic, or medicinal products made from specialty mushrooms. Expected deliverables are to build the capacity of a specialty mushroom agribusiness to be able to analyze market data and make informed decisions when developing new products. The volunteer will also help to promote linkages between U.S. companies and/or identify opportunities to access markets or credit.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Supporting Dairy Marketing Initiatives in Nicaragua

Partners’ Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program provides technical assistance along all levels of an agricultural value chain. This means that F2F volunteers may have expertise that is not related to production or the specifics of an agricultural product but may provide training in more cross-cutting areas. Last month, F2F volunteer, Diane Griffin, returned from her assignment in Nicaragua after spending two weeks providing technical assistance in marketing and strategic planning to three dairy cooperatives –COOPROLECHE, Nicarao, and CANISLAC.  Diane’s strong background in business development, leadership and management, and strategic planning allowed her to support the leadership of these organizations in several ways.

Diane with CANISLAC and F2F staff.
At COOPROLECHE, Diane mapped out business partners, donors, suppliers, and consumers in order to illustrate the strategic relationships that exist within their value chain.  She also supported COOPROLECHE in identifying opportunities to maximize their organization’s strengths and mitigate their weaknesses. During a marketing training for Nicarao, Diane helped identify how members of the organization contribute individually and collectively in shaping the future goals and objectives of the cooperative, thereby increasing members’ motivation and sense of ownership. Finally, Diane supported the development of CANISLAC’s Dairy Consumption Campaign by facilitating discussion on the direction and goals of their campaign and providing recommendations on how to address information gaps. Her work has helped COOPROLECHE, Nicarao, and CANISLAC identify organizational goals and develop a plan for achieving them.

Diane leading a workshop for Nicarao's leadership.
To read more about Diane’s experience in Nicaragua check out her blog here. Or to find out how to become a F2F volunteer and share your skills, visit the Partners website.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Artisanal Cheese Production in Nicaragua

Leonardo Castro with some cheese made during this visit.
Since 2012 the Nicaragua Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program has been working with Leonardo Castro on improving his family-owned dairy farm’s practices, production, and cheese quality.   His goals for the upcoming years include diversifying his cheese products, improving cheese quality, and increasing production, sales, and access to niche markets. About a year ago, shortly after receiving technical assistance from F2F volunteer Daniel Hewitt, Leonardo began producing and selling raw-milk Gouda through his start-up enterprise, Queso San Ramon.

Salting the milled curd before placing it in molds.
Due to customer demand, Leonardo has decided to diversify his cheese products by beginning to produce a cheddar-style cheese.  To support Leonardo in meeting his goal, Daniel returned to Nicaragua in July 2014 to train Leonardo and other community members in cheddar-style cheese production.  

Through hands-on activities and a five-day cheese-making workshop at the Queso San Ramon facility, Daniel was able to teach the principles and practices of artisanal cheese-making. Activities included tweaking and experimenting with different starter culture and salt amounts, milk heating schedules, and pressing weights. Throughout these interactive trainings, Daniel facilitated discussions with Leonardo and his team about how these changes could impact the final cheese product. The group also learned how to use new cheese-making equipment.

Testing the pH of the cheese after overnight press.
Thanks to Daniel’s trainings, Leonardo and his team are now well on their way to producing a cheddar-style cheese and there are also plans to increase Queso San Ramon’s production to twice a week. As Queso San Ramon continues to grow, Leonardo hopes to eventually expand and include two dairy neighbors.  

To learn more about this F2F assignment, watch the video below (in Spanish). A big thank you to Daniel for putting this together! And to find out more about how to become a F2F volunteer, please visit our website.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Partners’ Guatemala Farmer-to-Farmer Program Seeks Volunteers!

Last month, Partners of the Americas officially inaugurated its Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) office in Guatemala. Partners' F2F field staff are comprised of Country Director José Eduardo Cano, Field Officers Andrea Lucrecia Fión and José Abraham Jarquin, and Administrative Assistant Andrea Herrera. Partners' F2F program will focus on two key strategies: 1) strengthening horticulture value chains and 2) improving the productivity and competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises in Guatemala.

From left: Andrea Herrera, Andrea Fión,
Abraham Jarquin, and José Cano
The F2F staff maintain regular communication with the USAID/Guatemala Mission to ensure that the F2F program complements Guatemala's Feed the Future strategy and, in particular, the Western Highlands Integrated Program (WHIP). WHIP aims to reduce poverty and chronic malnutrition by focusing on the areas with the highest concentration of need and taking a collaborative approach with municipalities, community organizations, the private sector, and other programs such as Farmer-to-Farmer.

The first F2F volunteer in Guatemala arrived in the beginning of July and had a great visit (stay tuned for a future blog post about his trip!). And the field staff have several other open assignments (see below). The Guatemala field staff state, "We are enthusiastic to start working and have already started developing assignments, no doubt the commitment and dedication from the entire team will make the program a success in Guatemala."

Partners' Senior Program Officer Courtney Dunham, tours
CEPROCAL prior to the arrival of the first F2F volunteer
to Guatemala.

Open Volunteer Assignments in Guatemala:

Artisanal Goat Cheese Manufacturing and Marketing Expert (2-4 weeks in October):
A specialist in goat milk handling practices, quality assurance, and small-scale cheese manufacturing is needed to train extension staff at the Center for Goat Production in the Altiplano of Guatemala (CEPROCAL). The volunteer will train extension staff in proper goat milk product management to help ensure the production of high quality cheese. The volunteer will also assist with the development of a marketing plan to help expand market opportunities for CEPROCAL’s goat milk and cheese products. Spanish proficiency is desired, but not necessary.

Specialty Mushroom Production Expert (2-4 weeks in October or November):
A volunteer with experience in cultivating organic specialty mushrooms (i.e., shiitake, king oyster, enoki, nameko, and poplar) is needed to train mushroom producers in mushroom production on logs, mushroom pest and disease management, and post-harvest handling. Expected deliverables include the development of protocols for growing shiitake mushrooms on logs, guidelines on care and handling of mushrooms during production, methods to improve mushroom pest and disease management, and a Farmer-to-Farmer trip report and recommendations.

Food Safety Expert (2-4 weeks in November or December):
A specialist in food safety with experience in vegetable handling and packaging (particularly of peas, green beans, and bell peppers) is needed to train small-scale farmers in the central highlands on safe handling and packaging of vegetables for export. Expected deliverables are to develop a guide on procedures to ensure the proper packaging of vegetables and a Farmer-to-Farmer trip report with recommendations on  how farmers can remain in compliance with local and international protocols for vegetable packaging.

To find out more about how to volunteer or to view other volunteer assignments, please visit the Partners website at:

To learn more about the work of USAID's Feed the Future Strategy, please visit:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Farmer-to-Farmer Supports Entrepreneurs in Colombia

Entrepreneur, José, experiments with diversified crops  and
environmentally friendly management practices on his dairy farm
In Boyacá, Colombia, Servicio National de Aprendizaje (SENA) supports an entrepreneur program that matches business advisors with young entrepreneurs interested in developing their own small business. The advisor assists the entrepreneurs in creating a business plan, trains them in basic accounting, and provides follow-up and support over a course of three years. To complement this program, SENA requested a Partners of the Americas Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer to provide additional technical assistance to the entrepreneurs and their advisors.

From June 21 to July 5, 2014, Margaret Morse, traveled to Boyacá as a Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer to assess the current agribusiness-specific strategies of the entrepreneurs and provide recommendations on ways to strengthen their businesses and take advantage of potential niche market opportunities. The agribusinesses ranged from the production of blueberries, strawberries, and other fruits to livestock and cheese production. Margaret describes the work of one of these entrepreneurs' projects:

Blueberries in Piapa (from Margaret's trip report)

A new project raising blueberries in Piapa (a new crop for the area) involving a woman named Mrs. Baez and her mentor, instructor, and advisor, Romula Carmango, was in its second year. Romula has done extensive research on the variety Biloxi, a southern highbush blueberry, and its cultivation in that area. Working with Romula, we discussed the general requirements to manage a blueberry farm, specifically for Biloxi. After discussing the techniques used for raising blueberries, we also discussed the cultural aspects of planting in partial shade, fertilization, pruning, pest management, and disease control. 

Reflections on her assignment:

Margaret states: “What a joy there is teaching in the tropics where fruit is abundant, the weather is warm but not oppressive, and the people are filled with enthusiasm and curiosity.  It was a pleasure to work with SENA in the Boyacá region of Colombia.

Workshop on raising southern highbush blueberries
The program with which I was participating was designed to educate young entrepreneurs in rural communities on business development opportunities within a variety of agricultural sectors. As a result of this assignment, a new generation of farmers will hopefully be able to develop businesses within their rural communities instead of fleeing to the big cities in pursuit of better jobs and income.

The classes were filled with instructors [advisors] with marvelous ideas about agri-tourism and value-added products for potential enterprises.  Their questions aimed at turning information into material relevant to their students in the areas of production, marketing, record keeping, etc.  Any teacher would have been delighted to work in this environment charged with sharp questions and enthusiasm. The combination of ongoing technical assistance and business management is a very good approach to sustaining the entrepreneurs and their new businesses.”