Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Guatemala, Goats, and Genetic Improvements: A Volunteer's Story

This article is a contribution to a four-week blog series celebrating 30 years of USAID’s John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program.

Artificial insemination means all
the offspring will have superior genetics.
In late October 2015, F2F volunteer Bill Knox made his second visit to CEPROCAL, a large, established dairy goat project in Nebaj, Guatemala to increase the capacity for genetic improvement of goats in the western highlands and throughout the country. Mr Knox is recently retired from North Carolina State University, where he worked for 20 years managing research, livestock, and students. Knox also has many years of experience with artificial insemination in a production agriculture setting in the United States.  

Bill checks on the first usable
post-freeze sample. 
In July 2014, Bill Knox made history by visiting the western highlands of Guatemala to provide the first-ever training on artificial goat insemination. He trained management and staff in artificial insemination and parasite control over a two-week visit. This knowledge was applied at CEPROCAL with very positive results. In October 2015, the training focus was the capacity to collect and preserve semen from bucks, goat males housed at CEPROCAL. This will allow these superior males to serve female goats all over the country of Guatemala.

The University of San Carlos in Guatemala granted the Botón De Oro award to Bill Knox for his contributions to the caprinocultor (goat industry) sector in Guatemala. The award is given to professionals and academics for sharing their knowledge and contributing to the development of Guatemala in various sectors, such as agriculture. 

Bill took a moment to answer some questions about his F2F assignments in Guatemala. 

What first interested you in participating in F2F? What have your volunteer experiences meant to you? 

Checking on the herd. 
"Both trips to Guatemala have been very rewarding to me both personally and professionally. My connection with CEPROCAL and Save the Children Guatemala has been a perfect match with my lifelong interest in assisted reproduction technology, and CEPROCAL's need to improve caprine genetics. I have been quite impressed with both the scale and continued support provided for the dairy goat programs in the highlands [...]. The development of a culture of goat rearing, production and use of dairy products, and development of markets in 8-10 years is a feat that shows extraordinary commitment. I was so pleased to find on my return trip that every recommendation made in the summer of 2014 was acted upon to good effect. This type of follow through makes the time and effort required for each assignment worthwhile."

Tell us about the people-to-people component of your work. Have you shared in the US about your work with F2F? 

Dr. Fredy Gonzalez after 
collection at USAC
"I was pleased to have contact with veterinary and animal science students on both assignments to Guatemala. A big part of my career at NC State University was mentoring students, and exposure to USAC students was a natural extension of that part of my work. When returning to the university, I've had many opportunities to share my experiences as a F2F volunteer. This has been a benefit to NC State students envisioning how the science they study and the technology developed can be implemented where they are, or abroad in the developing world."

What type of response did you receive during your F2F trainings? 

"Guatemalan students, faculty, farmers, and the public at large greatly appreciate all ideas delivered  by F2F volunteers. Small changes in management, or high tech innovation are valuable additions that contribute to the well being of people where volunteers are sent. In just two visits I have witnessed a beneficial change.'

From November 16-December 11, F2F program partners are sharing their knowledge and experience providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. 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. This blog series aims to capture and share this program experience.

Read more articles celebrating 30 years of F2F on Agrilinks.

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