Thursday, March 12, 2015

F2F Country Highlight: Dominican Republic

A woman packaging bananas for export
Since June 2014, we have had 21 Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers travel to the Dominican Republic under the new strategy to "increase the resilience of vulnerable populations to the unpredictable impacts of global climate change". This strategy is the first of its kind in the worldwide Farmer-to-Farmer program, as its primary focus is on climate change rather than a specific agricultural value chain. As a result, it has been a great opportunity to engage new volunteers who bring diverse expertise outside of agriculture. Over the past year, our volunteers' work has focused on agroforestry, irrigation technology, water and soil quality and conservation, plastic and solid waste management, environmental education, and disaster risk mitigation. Below are some highlights of their work.

Soil Conservation

Hillside in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic

"The area around Jarabacoa has suffered from extensive deforestation on very steep land that has been converted to cropland and pastureland. Soil erosion is extensive and widespread, adding high volumes of sediments and fertilizers to surface waters. To combat this erosion, most farmer’s plant their land on the contour using ridges and furrows to slow erosion and to help prevent loss of crops. However, additional practices are needed to filter out sediments from entering streams. The adoption of simple, cost effective Best Management Practices (BMP’s) can help the farmer economically and significantly reduce farm sediments, fertilizers and herbicides from entering streams and rivers. Collaboration between Farmer-to-Farmer sponsors and staff, Extension Service, Plan Yaque and the Ministry of the Environment and Agriculture is also needed to educate and invigorate the farm community to install the needed practices." - Jeff Knowles, Soil conservation volunteer; retired 30 year veteran of the USDA’s Soil Conservation Service/Natural Resources Conservation Service

Jeff Knowles meets with environmental NGO, Plan Yaque
Jeff Knowles inspects ground cover for tajota fields

Plastic Management and Soil Recovery on Banana Farms

Bananas ripen wrapped in plastic to protect from pests
"The opportunity to volunteer with Farmer-to-Farmer demonstrated that agricultural plastics recycling is a global concern and that farmers that I work with in a rural county in Wisconsin have the same concerns as those in the Dominican Republic, producing food for the world in environmentally conscience ways." - Melissa Kono, plastic management volunteer; current faculty at University of Wisconsin-Extension

Ilan Bar assist trains farmers how to use soil and water test kits
"As always, I believe that the real and lasting impact of our work can be achieved if there is continuity to what we are doing. I hope this project will continue, and from my technical perspective, I think that the next most important thing is to get more growers switching to good sprinkler systems and training in applying and maintaining these systems." - Ilan Bar, soil recovery volunteer; agronomist and irrigation consultant


Agroforestry volunteers Dave Lombardo, Bill Ryburn, and Glen Juergens
"Water quantity and quality is a major concern for rural agricultural families. Protecting the water supply is a necessity to provide sufficient water for human consumption. Agroforestry and crop rotation methods with organic fertilizers and pesticides can improve crop yield and diversify agricultural products while utilizing a single parcel of their land on a permanent basis to grow their crops. A greater variety of tree species that are growing in an area will ensure a more healthy forest, reduce potential damage from insects and diseases, and reduce the amount of pesticides needed to control pests which are common in monoculture agriculture. A diverse forest is a healthier forest, not just for the trees growing there but also for wildlife." - Dave Lombardo, Bill Ryburn, and Glen Juergens, agroforestry volunteers; silviculture, natural resource, and forestry consultants

Disaster Risk Mitigation

Flooding town in Montecristi, Dominican Republic
"Tropical storms and hurricanes occur often in the Dominican Republic and disrupt banana plantation operations, especially when high and medium winds are paired with flooding. The resulting flash floods, destruction of banana plantations and property, sedimentation and endarement of life should be addressed using a mixture of mitigation and prevention measures." - Armando Milou, disaster risk mitigation volunteer and  GIS and water and sanitation consultant

To learn more about volunteering for our Farmer-to-Farmer program in the Dominican Republic, please contact Senior Program Officer, Courtney Dunham at or visit our website here to see open volunteer opportunities in our other countries.

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