Wednesday, April 29, 2015

F2F and Plan Yaque Team Up in the Dominican Republic

Partners is always looking to expand the reach of the Farmer-to-Farmer program and assist new organizations. In 2014, our F2F field staff met with Plan Yaque, a non-governmental organization with the mission to Clean, protect, and sustain the Rio Yaque del Norte watershed for the benefit of its people. Plan Yaque was established in 2011 and is located in the municipality of Jarabacoa. Plan Yaque has a lofty goal: to guarantee access to water for all individuals who depend on the Yaque del Norte watershed. Not only does the Yaque del Norte watershed provide drinking water to more than two million people, but it also irrigates the most productive banana, rice, and horticultural production areas in the country. However, as the DR continues to face the effects of climate change, it will become more challenging to meet the water demand of the growing population, which will jeopardize the country’s ability to sustain economic growth.

In March 2014, Senior Program Officer Courtney Dunham visited Plan Yaque to provide an overview of the F2F program and to identify potential needs of the organization that could be addressed through F2F. Humberto Checo, the Director of Plan Yaque, stated that their immediate need was assistance in developing strategic and operational plans. As one of the main environmental NGOs in the area, Plan Yaque had identified over 13 activities and projects under four categories (water quality, natural resource management, improved soil management, and solid and liquid waste management) that they hoped to accomplish, too many for an organization with only six staff members.

Bill Nichols with Plan Yaque Director, Humberto Checo, overlooking Jarabacoa
In June 2014, Partners sent Bill Nichols, the first F2F volunteer to assist Plan Yaque, to build the capacity of the staff to develop a strategic plan that emphasized key priorities for climate change adaptation in communities affected by the Yaque del Norte watershed. (See Bill Nichols' blog entry here.) Mr. Nichols helped Plan Yaque to determine their greatest priorities and recommended that their efforts focus on the upper watershed, as the benefits will be seen more quickly and can impact the lower watershed.

Several other F2F volunteers have since provided follow-up to Mr. Nichols' assignment. Agroforestry and forest management specialists, Dave Lombardo, Glen Juergens, and William “Bill” Ryburn traveled in October 2014 to review the environmental programs in the upper Yaque del Norte watershed and to assess current reforestation projects (see blog here). They provided recommendations on maintaining forest health and the role of agroforestry in reducing the impact of climate change on the ecosystem and in the Yaque del Norte watershed. Additionally, F2F volunteer Jeff Knowles, a 30-year retired veteran of the USDA Soil Conservation Service/Natural Resources Conservation Service, traveled in December 2014 to assess current soil and environmental management on hillside farms in the upper watershed (see blog here). According to estimates in his trip report, only about 37 percent of the original native forests in the DR remain intact. Mr. Knowles visited three sub-watersheds of the Jarabacoa river to assess deforestation and soil erosion and provide recommendations on methods to improve sustainable hillside production and soil management to reduce erosion.

F2F volunteer, Jeff Knowles, with staff from Plan Yaque
In February 2015, Courtney Dunham returned to the DR to visit Plan Yaque. Below are her observations: 

Compared to our visit from last year, Plan Yaque has a much clearer and more focused idea of their key areas of work. Last year, they listed an overwhelming number of natural resource protection and conservation initiatives that were infeasible for their small team of six full-time employees. Now, they have a new vision that focuses on inter-institutional collaboration to protect the Yaque del Norte water resources for human consumption and environmental conservation by focusing efforts in three key areas:
  1. Agroforestry: Their ultimate goal is to create a “model forest” where farmers can learn about different types of productive trees they may be able to growto reforest their land
  2. Soil conservation: Plan Yaque is the first organization in the region with a project that solely focuses on soil conservation and protection
  3. Solid waste management: Humberto said that waste affects 80% of waterways in the Yaque del Norte region
Goals and Future F2F Assignments

Plan Yaque is interested in receiving F2F assistance to learn how to analyze and use the data they currently collect on water quality to be able to better monitor and manage the watershed. Other assignments will also focus on assisting Plan Yaque with marketing and promoting their institutional image in order to help raise awareness of the excellent work they are doing to protect the watershed and guarantee water in the Jarabacoa region. Partners' F2F program looks forward to continuing to work with Humberto Checo and his team at Plan Yaque!

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