|F2F volunteer Steve Johnson meets potato producers in Sibinal, San Marcos|
Like on some potato farms in Maine, potato producers in Sibinal save seeds. However, seed potatoes in Sibinal have recently developed bacterial and fungi infections. As producers save seeds from season to season, the diseases are transmitted each year, causing significantly smaller potatoes and consistently lower yields. While some producers wanted to explore using high-quality certified seed potatoes, they are expensive and FENAPAPA did not have access to information or technical assistance on how to maintain or produce certified seed potatoes.
|Dr. Johnson training producers to identify blackleg, a plant disease of potatoes|
Dr. Johnson also left a series of recommendations to greatly improve storage areas. As a result of Dr. Johnson’s visit, FENAPAPA improved their facilities by adding wind and temperature control. By February 2016, FENAPAPA had already adopted all the recommendations. FENAPAPA producers eagerly await the next potato harvest in October 2016 to see if, finally, their potatoes are disease-free and have increased yields. Dr. Johnson said:
“The trip had a dramatic effect on me. I have a passion for international agriculture, particularly helping people eat better and improve their life through better agricultural practices. Guatemala is a poor nation with half the people living below the poverty line and 15 percent at extreme poverty (various internet sites). The farmers I met and hopefully helped were pleased beyond words that someone with knowledge would come to the Guatemala highlands and walk on their farm to help them. The less they had, the more they wanted to give. This would move anyone. More people need to see what I saw, feel what I felt, to realize how fortunate some people are, simply by where they were born. I look forward to returning to Guatemala for future assignments. The Farmer-to-Farmer program is terrific.”