Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Highlights from 2015!

2015 has been a productive year for Partners' Agriculture and Food Security (AFS) Unit! Under the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program, 119 volunteers traveled to nine countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to work with close to 114 producer groups, NGOs, universities, and other hosts. Skilled professionals volunteered for a combined total of 1,905 days and directly assisted over 8,500 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 Mother Leaders who have been organized into 188 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 additional pregnant and lactating mothers of children under the age of five. As a result, the project is now reaching over 20,297 neighborhood women households.

Top words from our 2015 blog posts:

Below are some top stories and other 2015 highlights:

JANUARY Femke Oldham and Matt Frieberg returned to the archipelago of Columbia islands to work the Raizal, the native island community on Isla Providencia. They completed rainwater harvesting analyses in order to advise residents about ways to reduce their use of unreliable and expensive surface water and instead harvest rainwater—a relatively free, high quality, and abundant source of water on the island. The long-term goal was to be more self-sufficient and resilient to the impacts of climate change.

FEBRUARY - In February, Partners celebrated the International Year of the Soils by highlighting Jeff Knowles' travel to the Dominican Republic to evaluate the extent of land degradation and soil erosion within priority watersheds. Retired after 30 years working with USDA’s Soil Conservation Service/Natural Resources Conservation Service, Mr. Knowles assessed the soil and environmental management of hillside farms in the Jarabacoa region and identified appropriate, economically feasible, and environmentally friendly methods and technologies for improved soil protection in the upper watershed.

MARCH - In Central Guatemala, members of AsociaciĆ³n VisiĆ³n Maya have been successfully producing oyster mushrooms for ten years, but asked F2F to help them develop their skills and create recommendations for better practices. Volunteers Dr. Khalid Hameed and Dr. Henry Van Cotter began a series of training sessions designed to increase the productivity of Maya Vision’s farmers. Their recommendations transferred valuable technical knowledge that helped the Maya Vision Association to become independent.

One of Maya Vision oyster farmers

APRIL - Partnering with EducaFuturo, Partners' anti-child labor program, F2F had two volunteers visit Panama to assist a women's group in producing and marketing their cocoa products. Read about Rebecca Roebber and Arcelia Gallardo's trip to find out more.

MAY Dan Krull went on his second trip to Haiti with F2F to improve goat husbandry practices on the island. This time, Dan focused his efforts on teaching and establishing sound goat nutrition programs for the farmers that Partners of the Americas and Makouti Agro Enterprise have partnered with. Medicines for common goat maladies are typically very expensive, so Krull introduced the farmers to natural alternatives.

JUNE - Nicaraguan farmers have had problems with their herds related to decreased nutrition, poor reproductive management, and heat stress. Nicaragua has one of the highest potentials for livestock production in Latin America but one of the lowest numbers of actual production. June was a good month for Nicaragua's cattle industry. Three volunteers were featured on the blog for their work in Nicaragua's cattle and dairy farms - Ashley Conway through cattle nutrition, and Katie Pfieffer and Heather Schlesser with providing training on cattle reproduction.

JULY - The DR has recently been infested by Mediterranean fruit flies — a ravenous pest that has destroyed billions of dollars in agricultural products around the world. The impact on the DR's agriculture has been devastating and immediate. F2F volunteer Brian Upchurch, a private farm owner from North Carolina with expertise in greenhouse management, traveled to assess and evaluate current greenhouse operations and practices of vegetable farmers in the DR, paying special attention to the bugs that have been so destructive on the country’s agriculture industry.

Greenhouse in the DR
AUGUST Katie Plaia and Jennifer Rangel, graduate students at Florida State University, came to F2F in a creative way. When their marketing professor was approached for an assignment, she instead turned the opportunity into a contest for her students. As the winners, Katie and Jennifer developed an integrated marketing plan for Grupo Union Esperanza, an organization of women in Guatemala who endeavor to improve their economic situation by developing a business together. Read about their efforts here
Haiti's IWCA Executive Board

SEPTEMBER- In an effort to help build a more gender-inclusive value chain in Haiti’s coffee sector, Christa Michaud traveled to the country as a F2F volunteer to assist in the development of a local chapter of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA). Through leadership and strategic workshops, she taught basic concepts essential to managing an organization. Through IWCA, female coffee farmers will have access to training and other capacity building opportunities that will empower them to improve their income and more fully contribute to rebuilding Haiti’s ailing coffee sector.

OCTOBER - In October, veteran volunteer Rip Winkel was asked to Nueva Guinea, Nicaragua, to assess the viability for cash crop production in four different farming communities. Using soil samples taken in each of the locations, Rip presented his findings to the farmers, discussing which crops might be better for each type of soil. At the end of his two week trip, he set up test plots as a continuing source of education for the farmers to try new approaches and ideas.

NOVEMBER - Throughout the month of November, F2F implementers shared their knowledge and experience providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. The first four weeks featured stories in technology transfercapacity developmentnatural resource management, and citizen diplomacy, culminating in the F2F 30th Anniversary Learning Event, which recognized the USAID-funded program’s past accomplishments and highlighted lessons learned over its lifespan. 

Marie Guerline Ostine
DECEMBER 2015 was a busy and productive year for the Haiti Nutrition Security Program.  On March 8th, 460 Mother leaders, including Magalie Hubbert, were featured in honor of International Women’s Day.  Those Mother Leaders graduated from their 15-month long training program at the end of April, where they were honored for their commitment and achievements. The training program covered the importance of a balanced diet, breastfeeding best practices, and various livelihood activities.  Mothers aren’t the only ones involved in the program though. Father’s Day in June gave us a chance to appreciate the more than 1,200 men participating in NSP’s Father Groups and the 500 male adolescents in the youth hroups. Youth engagement is at the heart of the strategy of Partners’ Nutrition Security Program (NSP) for the promotion of good nutrition practices for sustainable change. As a result, young leaders become aware of their role and prepare to become tomorrow's active citizens.  Over the summer, NSP wanted to show how being part of the program really influenced a pparticipant’s life. They spent a week in the life of Marie Guerline Ostine, a Mother Leader with three young children, noting her involvement with her family, church, and community. At this year’s annual American Public Health Association (APHA) Conference in November in Chicago, Illinois, NSP’s Senior Technical Advisor, Dr. Altrena Mukuria, presented research about the role that Care Groups play in exposing Haitians to nutrition and healthcare information.

It was a great year for NSP and F2F and Partners is looking forward to what 2016 will bring!

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