Friday, July 29, 2016

5 Ways F2F Beneficiaries are Getting Climate-Smart

Do you know what it means to be climate-smart? For smallholder banana farmers in the Dominican Republic, climate-smart agriculture can mean the difference between surviving and thriving during extreme weather events. Find out how Partners' Farmer-to-Farmer strategy in the DR is leveraging the agricultural knowledge of American agricultural experts to help Dominicans become more resilient to climate change and ensure a food secure future for their families!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Greetings from the Dominican Republic!

Partners Farmer-to-Farmer Program staff from around the region met last week in the Dominican Republic to receive training, share experiences, and meet with some local hosts. The meeting was a great opportunity for new F2F field staff and seasoned veterans alike to learn from each other and form new relationships. Through these yearly workshops, we aim to build the capacity of F2F staff to collect success stories, measure program impact, and anticipate the needs of hosts and volunteers. Exchanging stories from four diverse F2F countries generated new ideas and excitement about the program and we look forward to carrying that out in the coming months!

Below are photos we snapped throughout the week during a field visit to a F2F banana cooperative, workshops, and relaxation time. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

SDG 17: Partnership for the Goals

This article is a contribution to a blog series on how Partners Agriculture and Food Security programs contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This week’s blog highlights the work Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers have been doing to achieve SDG 17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

Partnership can be a powerful tool for innovation, development, and social change - key cornerstones of programming at Partners of the Americas. Our Farmer-to-Farmer success stories often focus on sustainable development strategies throughout Guatemala, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua. What we don't often emphasize is the long-lasting impact of F2f on volunteers' lives once they leave their host countries. 

 While on-site, our volunteers face daily challenges as they apply their skills in unique environments. Check out how agricultural experts use their F2F experiences to improve global partnership and meet this Goal 17 target:

Encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships

"I plan on using my experience to continue to work in agriculture in developing countries.  I really feel that Agroforestry can improve farming and animal husbandry practices and help shift attitudes toward planting more trees."

-Dan Krull, F2F Haiti Volunteer 2015

"Nicaragua is always a wonderful opportunity. This has been very helpful to me professionally as it has allowed me to compare my experience in livelihood development in Asia, Eastern Europe, and Central America."

-Bryan Dodson, F2F Nicaragua Volunteer 2016

"By spending a few weeks inland in the Dominican Republic and learning about these specific communities, I started to have a better understanding on motivations, politics, and possible solutions [for waste management]"

-Annette Poliwka, F2F DR Volunteer 2016

Vanessa Campoverde assists an ornamental plant grower with nutrition analysis.
Find out more about the power of partnership through one volunteers continued success cultivating relationships with sweet potato farmers in Guyana - 19 years after his initial trip with F2F!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Compost Basket: A Free Long-Term Fertilizer Solution!

Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers are selected based on their passion and expertise in a specific area; so it doesn't surprise us that volunteers translate that passion into longer term projects, blogs, presentations, or even more F2F assignments! 

Hailing from Absarokee, Montana, long-serving F2F volunteer Wayne Burleson has served through Partners of the Americas in Guatemala and Nicaragua on a variety of occasions. As a horticulture volunteer, Wayne is an expert in organic inputs and organic kitchen gardening and runs a blog that features innovative methods for food gardening. 

Below is a sample of the work he's done in his own garden for those with (and without) a green thumb!

COMPOST BASKET - a 4-free long-term fertlizer solution
  1. Make a small wire basket to hold raw organic matter in, build it right in a growing vegetable garden bed.  
  2. Throw into this wire basket: clean kitchen waste, old garden plants, banana peels, over-ripe fruit like avocados etc., dry grass and other raw wasted food stuff. Don't forget to add soil between the layers.  
  3. Water the compost basket once in a while.  
  4. As the organic matter rots (compost is being made), it will feed the soil which feeds the plant. When water is added, the new nutrients are leeched right into the vegetable root systems.

"This is the second year we have done [a compost basket] and our tomato plants are twice as tall with lots of tomatoes on the plant compared to the other tomatoes growing away from the compost basket."
 - Wayne Burleson

Read about the innovative work Wayne has done through F2F in herd management, dairy, and organic agriculture: Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Wayne Burleson.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Sustainable Development Goal 8: Good Jobs and Economic Growth

This article is a contribution to a blog series on how Partners Agriculture and Food Security programs contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This week’s blog highlights what Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers have been doing towards SDG 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment, and decent work for all

Did you know that the Latin American and Caribbean region is now the second most
enterprising region in the world?! According to the World Bank, 4 out of every 10 Latin American youth hope to become entrepreneurs [source]. But it takes a supportive community and a wealth of resources to make entrepreneurship a feasible venture, especially when the cultural stigma of failure can be overwhelming. Despite these barriers, young people across the region are embracing the opportunity to create jobs for themselves through entrepreneurship. 

How does Partners help?

Through our Farmer-to-Farmer program, we focus on cultivating economic conditions that will allow small enterprises to grow sustainably and preserve the livelihoods of vulnerable populations. For women, youth, and persons with disabilities, this means increased access to inclusive employment found on the grassroots level. Our approach not only strengthens the capacity of individual businesses to provide employment, but it strengthens communities’ capacity to embrace innovation and entrepreneurship that will help them grow sustainably. Find out what we're doing to foster healthy economic growth under each of these 3 targets:

1. Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high-value added and labour-intensive sectors

In every F2F country, Partners targets high-value added industries like dairy and livestock in Nicaragua and horticulture in Guatemala. But it’s the expertise of our highly skilled volunteers that make niche projects like essential oil distillation in Jamaica possible. Our volunteers not only serve to strengthen existing value chains and value added sectors, but also to introduce new and promising opportunities for entrepreneurship. For Jamaicans, essential oils are a high-value added product that can be cultivated from the unique aromatic plants found on the island. Read about it here: Aromatics Expert Trains Essential Oil Makers in Jamaica.

F2F Volunteer Erin Menzies works with banana producers in
the Dominican Republic to reduce waste
and improve water quality.

2. Improve progressively, through 2030, global resource efficiency in consumption and production and endeavour to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation, in accordance with the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production, with developed countries taking the lead

In the Dominican Republic, the banana industry serves as a major source of income for many smallholder farmers. Major waste management issues, however, create a threat to the fragile island environment as plastic waste is discarded at high rates without proper 
recycling and waste facilities. On the consumer side, poor waste management infrastructure has led to contamination of the local water supply as trash is not regulated, despite the need to preserve what little resources are available on the island. Find out how waste management volunteers are working at the grassroots level to create behavior change, engage youth, and encourage innovation to make consumption more sustainable: 3 Ways to Tackle Waste Management in Low-Resource Settings.

3. By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value

Achieving decent work for all women and men means supporting the potential of all youth to learn and grow without the need for child labor. Through our partnership with Partners program Educafuturo, F2F has fielded volunteers in Panama and Ecuador to combat child labor by providing sustainable employment alternatives for adults to support their families. Read about our joint volunteers that have worked with Panamanian communities in microcredit and tomato processing and with Ecuadorian communities in Cacao management.

Additionally, Partners' sport for employment program, A Ganar, supports this mission to empower youth to create sustainable livelihoods. Through sport for development, the program aims to reduce gang violence and provide youth with the stability of school, employment, social networks, and safe communities.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Accounting for Coffee: Volunteer Trains Cooperatives in Haiti

F2F volunteer Howard Fenton prepares
notes prior to leading 2 workshops.
While many of our volunteer Farmer-to-Farmer projects focus on providing agricultural assistance in host countries, we frequently field volunteers that offer organizational assistance. Organizational assistance allows owners of rural enterprises to make business operations more financially efficient and socially and environmentally sustainable. Organizational projects can take the form of professional development trainings, strategic communications planning, or recordkeeping analysis. 

For coffee cooperatives in Haiti’s northern regions surrounding Cap-Haitien, recordkeeping is an invaluable asset for monitoring and controlling day-to-day business costs. F2F volunteer and accountant Howard Fenton took on this challenge as he traveled to Haiti in June to conduct site visits and led several trainings with the coffee cooperatives. As a result of his work, producers will be able to recognize best business practices and opportunities to capitalize on them. Specific items like developing a business plan, setting goals and planning the steps to achieve those goals, and self-evaluation are essential to a successful farm operation.

Workshop participants complete a cost analysis exercise.
In addition to leading trainings on financial management, Howard worked with cooperatives to help define roles and responsibilities for each member of the enterprise. Before leaving the site, Howard also left behind a manual to supplement the trainings he conducted while in country. The manual allows cooperatives to: (1) Know whether the business is making a profit; (2) Control costs; (3) Justify using credit; (4) Compare alternatives.

The resulting information can be used to help identify the degree of financial success experienced by a business or enterprise, provide it with the necessary information to develop business plans and analyze business alternatives that benefit owners, members, and the community at large.

Howard reported overwhelming success with the trainings he conducted and reported hosts were eager to talk about their businesses. He was also interested in the wide variety of income producing enterprises (goats, rabbits, bees, and pineapples) that existed!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality

This article is a contribution to a blog series on how Partners Agriculture and Food Security programs contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This week’s blog highlights what Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers have been doing towards SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Around the world, women and girls play a crucial role in creating sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their families. However, minimal access to land, credit, training, and leadership positions due to gender-based inequities all too often limits their economic opportunities.

For our USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer and Haiti Nutrition Security programs, family spending dynamics play a crucial role in livelihood development. A growing body of research shows that when women have control of familial income, they invest more money in their children’s education, health care, and overall wellbeing. Not only does this dynamic produce positive health and wellness outcomes, but it elevates women’s social status and gives them decision-making power in other areas. Nonetheless, the question remains as to how to successfully tackle gender inequalities that exist across the globe despite the fact that women live and work under diverse socioeconomic conditions.

Our Agriculture and Food Security programs aim to achieve SDG 5 in Latin America and the Caribbean using methods tailored specifically to the communities they serve. By including women in agricultural trainings, improving maternal and child health, and working with women-run cooperatives, we are especially focused on achieving 3 targets for gender equality: 

1. Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life

Haitian women participate in a community training
on infant and child nutrition.
During 2013-2016, Partners’ Haiti Nutrition Security Program increased opportunities for women by engaging them as food security leaders in their Haitian communities. The program centered on the role of Mother Leaders in visiting local households to direct discussions on diet diversity, food groups, and best practices related to the nutrition and health of children under five. This strategy was highly effective because it encouraged women to learn from other women whom they trusted and understood as neighbors. Women were provided with resources and education to take on leadership roles in public and familial decision making when it comes to one of Haiti’s most pressing problems – nutrition insecurity.

2. Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws

Panamanian women plan the implementation of a local bank
for people commonly excluded from the financial system.
Education and leadership are only a few pieces to the puzzle that gives women greater decision-making power in their everyday lives. When women can earn an income and access financial resources like banks, they cultivate sustainable livelihoods that are more resilient to economic and environmental shocks. For women in rural Panamanian communities, this service is absolutely vital, as illiteracy, transportation costs, and a lack of paperwork prevents many from accessing a commercial bank. Greater financial inclusion is one step towards achieving land tenure for women agriculturalists, who still face significant challenges in obtaining rights to the acreage they farm. Learn about how F2F volunteer Ian Robinson built upon community collateral to train women in creating a local savings and credit institution.

3. Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women

F2F volunteer Ellen Lewis knows that the value of information technology in achieving gender equality cannot be understated. During her most recent work in Nicaragua, Ellen 
conducted several workshops with F2F hosts on systems thinking - a method used in a variety of fields to address large, complex social problems with a variety of stakeholders. She applied feminist theory to F2F activities and built a group of young facilitators trained in gender equity, systems thinking, and protecting the environment. By building the capacity of local organizations to address systematic gender inequality, Ellen’s work formed the foundation for F2F's gender equality strategy in Nicaragua and elsewhere.

Keep an eye out over the coming weeks for more features on how Partners Agriculture and Food Security team is working to reach SDG targets in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Power of Partnership: Volunteer Success in Guyana

Veteran F2F Volunteer James Garner conducts field assessments
with smallholder farmers in Guyana.
A unique element to Partners of the Americas’ Farmer-to-Farmer program is the focus we place on partnership to achieve broad and lasting community change. From focused project strategies to cutting-edge monitoring and evaluation techniques, we aim to ensure that the impact of F2F lasts beyond immediate volunteer activities. 

F2F volunteer Dr. James Garner, former Director of the Department of Agriculture and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), traveled to Guyana with Partners for the first time in 1997. After that initial trip, he traveled more than 22 times with Partners F2F Program to assist in the improvement of sweet potato and cassava production practices, among other topics. For the Friendship Farmers Land Cooperative Society, this was a welcome partnership, as producers found it difficult to coordinate improved product quality with higher prices. As a result of Garner’s assistance through the F2F program, cassava production increased 60% and sweet potato production 80% from the start of the project. In 2012, Dr. Garner secured funding from UAPB to return to Guyana with a graduate student to conduct research on weed control in sweet potato production and follow up on his previous assignments. 

In the years since our F2F program ended in Guyana in 2013, Dr. Garner has pooled resources to connect UAPB even further with the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) at the University of Guyana to improve sweet potato cultivation practices. A new, long term partnership project is now being funded by the US Department of Agriculture in collaboration with Guyana’s Ministry of Agriculture. Partners’ local Guyana chapter is also involved in the project, adding another layer of sustainability. Not only does it aim to improve horticultural quality of sweet potatoes, but the project will train local scientists in specialized propagation techniques to create a sweet potato seed program. This work complements NAREI’s trial program with sprinkler irrigation systems to increase sweet potato yields throughout the country.

Dr. Garner consults with sweet potato producers on
developing a set of best cultivation practices.
Check out this article featured in Guyana national news for more details on the project.

We recruit volunteers that are passionate about their work in agriculture and eager to share their expertise by cultivating meaningful partnerships. Ultimately, it is the commitment of host organizations and undying volunteer support that turn F2F assistance into long lasting change and projects like this one.

To learn more about how F2F facilitates partnership, find out how one volunteer worked with our EducaFuturo program and the US Department of Labor to reduce child labor and make Panamanian communities more food secure!