Thursday, February 25, 2016

F2F Updates from the Field: Robert and Sydne Spencer's Work in Guatemala

F2F volunteers Robert and Sydne Spencer in Chocolá, Guatemala
Robert and Sydne Spencer from Tennessee recently traveled to Guatemala from January 24 to February 7 to complete two Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) assignments on food safety and security in rabbit meat production and nutritional opportunities within rabbit meat processing. 

Robert's background in small animal production and extensive experience in goat, sheep, and rabbit meat production originally sparked his participation in the Guatemala F2F program in April 2015. As follow-up, his second assignment was to address good handling practices for rabbit meat production. When Robert identified that host organization Seeds for the Future was also in need of a specialist to address food safety and HACCP within rabbit meat processing and preparation, he was quick to recommend his wife, Sydne. Sydne has experience in quality assurance and in meat rabbit and dairy goat production and processing. This was her first F2F assignment and Robert and Sydne's first time working together with Farmer-to-Farmer. Below are notes from the field:

Week One:
Robert and Sydne completed their first week of volunteer work in Chocolá, which is in the department of Suchitepéquez in southwestern Guatemala. During their first week in Chocolá and surrounding communities, the Spencer’s accomplished the following:

    Rabbit pen in Chocolá
  • Visited, observed, and assessed:
    • 9 rabbit farms in Chocolá
    • 10 rabbit farms in San Pablo
    • 5 rabbit farms in Pacamache
  • Observed typical Guatemalan preparation of rabbit in San Pablo
  • Sydne trained technicians, community members, and families in food safety and HACCP in order to establish best practices when processing and cooking rabbit meat.
  • Sydne also introduced two alternative styles (fried fillets & rabbit and vegetable soup) of rabbit preparation in Pacamache
  • Robert trained technicians, community members, and families on best management practices in rabbit production in order to increase understanding of how to utilize local resources to improve production 

Week Two:
During Week 2 of their assignment, Robert and Sydne traveled to the community of San Juan, Suchitepéquez. They conducted two days of training on:

Sydne Spencer conducting a training on rabbit meat processing
  • Basics of meat rabbit production
  • Best management practices
  • Biosecurity for rabbit production
  • Marketing
  • Processing of rabbits
  • Preparation of rabbit meat with vegetables

During this second week of work, Robert and Sydne directly trained 40 adults, including 35 females and 5 males. They concluded their assignment by preparing a lunch that included rabbit meat with vegetables. Rabbit production is a relatively new concept to much of Guatemala. 

Robert and Sydne noted, "While the group was vaguely familiar with rabbit production, they had no idea of its potential including various recipes. By the end of the two day training they were very enthused and were making plans to introduce this practice to the communities they work with."

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Bouyon Pwa Kase and Akamil Sikre

Cooking demonstrations are an important component of the Haiti Nutrition Security Program. According to evidence from parents participating in the program, the opportunity to contribute and participate actively in the preparation of nutrient-dense meals increases their capacity to more effectively combat malnutrition at home. Below are two recipes used in NSP cooking demonstrations in Haiti. Because it is the International Year of the Pulses, we are highlighting recipes containing beans. Pulses provide protein, complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. Like other plant-based foods, pulses contain no cholesterol and little fat or sodium. They also have a long shelf life and can be stored without losing their nutritional content. 

Bouyon Pwa Kase - Pulse Stew 
Bouyon Pwa Kase or bean stew is a traditional Haitian dish with many variations. The addition of vitamin- and nutrient-rich carrots, malanga, greens, and moringa powder to this recipe make it a nutritious dish for the whole family. 

Ingredients:
2 medium-sized yams
18 ounces dried black beans, sorted for stones
Pulse Stew
2-3 fresh green plantains
2-3 malanga also known as cocoyam
4 medium carrots, chopped
1-2 cucumbers
Green leaves
Moringa powder
Flour
Iodized salt
1 pound of diced salted beef
1 large onion, chopped

4 medium garlic gloves, crushed or minced

Instructions: 
Makes 6 to 10 - 1.5 cup servings

1. Cook the salted beef;
2. Boil the beans until tender, remove half to prepare a puree; set aside the remaining half;
3. In a heavy pot, heat 2-4 tablespoons of cooking oil, add the meat, chopped onion and carrots (chopped bell pepper, diced tomatoes and celery ribs can also be added at this time). Reduce heat and let simmer/cook for about 30 minutes;
4. Add the bean puree and the remaining beans; 

5. Peel the plantains and yams, wash them in cold water and half or dice them, not too small. Pour in the beef broth and 3-4 cups of water as needed and let cook for 30-45 minutes until the tubers are nicely cooked. Stir from time to time;
5. Then, add the vegetables, chopped, washed and the Moringa powder; and finally the flour and the iodized salt to taste; stir everything and cover with low heat for 15 minutes before serving.

Akamil Sikre - Pulse-Fortified Porridge
The transition from exclusive breastfeeding to complementary feeding is a time when children are especially vulnerable to malnutrition. This nutritious porridge meets some of the nutritional needs of a growing child while he or she continues breastfeeding.

Mother feeding fortified porridge to her
child at a NSP cooking demonstration
Ingredients:
2 cups bean fortified cereal flour blend (dried black bean, sorghum/millet or wheat/corn/rice)
4 cups water
3 cups cow milk, boiled
Sugar
1 banana
Iodized salt
Spices (star anise, cinnamon)

Instructions:
1. Pour the water in a large pot with sugar, anise and cinnamon and bring to a boil;
2. Stir in the fortified flour and cook for 45 minutes; continue to stir
3. Add the crushed banana, hot milk and iodized salt;
4. Simmer for 15 more minutes;

5. Serve hot or cold.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Greenhouse Production in the Dominican Republic

According to F2F volunteer Judson Reid, greenhouse production of fruits and vegetables helps protect the Yaque del Norte river basin in the Dominican Republic in several ways:
  • Higher yields in controlled environments reduce crop pressure on steep slopes, thereby reducing erosion and maintaining surface water quality.
  • Proper management in controlled environments decreases pesticide use.
  • Diversification into fruit and vegetable crops provide an alternative for coffee growers who currently face unprecedented disease pressure from coffee rust (Hemileia vastatrix)
Higher quality products from controlled environments, such as greenhouses, are also suitable for export markets. As a result, farmers are able to generate more income, increase their standard of living, and create employment opportunities in their community.

Despite these benefits, greenhouse production in the Jarabacoa region faces numerous critical challenges and an uncertain future. Pests, poor market conditions, and lack of access to credit are current threats. More commonly, however, greenhouse producers listed a lack of training on Best Management Practices (BMPs) as the key barrier to realizing the full potential of greenhouse production. In November 2015, Mr. Reid traveled to the Dominican Republic to assist greenhouse producers in improving their greenhouse use and management. Mr. Reid offered training to over 100 producers and recommended improvements including: 
  • Develop enterprise budgets for new crops and traditional crops;
  • Plant crops at multiple dates to ensure that labor demand is spread evenly across the calendar year and peak yield coincides with peak demand; and
  • Increase thrips management by farm operators.
The Farmer-to-Farmer Program promotes people-to-people exchange and Dominican producers are not the only ones who benefited from Mr. Reid's assignment. Mr. Reid noted, “I have already integrated issues around thrips management in the DR into my educational programming with growers in the Northeast U.S.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Photos from the Field

Partners Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) volunteers have been out working all over Latin America and the Caribbean, helping to improve agricultural production, processing, marketing, and environmental management. Below are some recent photos from the field... 

In Nicaragua, F2F volunteer Janet Hernandez holds organizational development workshops with smallholder farmers and UNAG members in Nueva Guinea. 

Dr. Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak spent several weeks working with farmers to help improve goat and rabbit management in Haiti. 

F2F volunteer Ariga Grigoryan conducts a training on the importance of problem solving, working together, and general organizational development to greenhouse producers. Greenhouse producers who are members of the Jarabacoa Greenhouse Cluster generally tend to work individually rather than resolve problems collectively. The Cluster reached out to Farmer-to-Farmer for assistance in helping individuals learn how to work more efficiently and effectively together, thus leading to improved capacity to jointly resolve their problems as well as jointly improve productivity and resilience to climate change. 

F2F volunteer Robert Spencer with rabbit producers after conducting training on disease management in rabbit production in Guatemala.

In Panama, volunteer Carmen Pacheco-Borden works with Ngabe women on processing and canning tomatoes and tomato sauces and salsas.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Value-Added Products: Are They Economically Beneficial for Small Farmers?

F2F Volunteer Diane Twete leading a peanut
butter-making demonstration in Guatemala
Agricultural value-added products are typically defined as a crop or raw product whose value has been increased by changing its physical state through activities including  washing, processing, packaging, etc. Common examples of value-added products include jams, cheeses, canned produce, roasted coffee, soaps, chocolate, breads, cured meats—you name it.

Many F2F hosts - often small farmers - want to shift towards selling value-added agricultural products because they know that such products can typically be sold at much higher prices than their raw materials. The desire stems from a seemingly straightforward logical thought process— higher price means higher profit. However, higher sale price does not always mean higher profit. There are a multitude of factors that determine whether that logic holds true and those factors differ for every particular case. 

F2F host processing cacao beans in Panama
F2F engages with these farmers and producers, many of whom do not keep records or have other information about their current production to help them answer the question: “Is it economically beneficial to make and sell a value-added product?” F2F volunteers train program participants in basic budgets, farm records, and market analysis. Part of this process includes investigating various factors affecting the profitability of value-added products. Some questions that volunteers and farmers ask include: 

1. What are the available inputs? 
Inputs include raw agricultural products, labor, energy, and transport among others.

2. Given the available inputs, what value-added product(s) can be made?
As mentioned above, value-added products include washed and packaged produce, jams, cheeses, canned produce, roasted coffee, soaps, chocolate, breads, cured meats, etc.

3. Is there an accessible market for the product(s) and is there demand for the product(s)? 
Analysis of the market is critical. If there is no accessible market or specific demand for the product, the conversation should stop here. If this is a new product not currently available anywhere, some more detailed research may need to be done to survey people on potential demand. But this question about market and demand is the most important. 

4. How much will it cost to process and sell this value-added product? 
The long answer to this question includes many details beyond the cost of production but often when working with small producers, focusing on the cost of production is best.

5. Will a higher price give me higher profit? 
Answering this question may be especially challenging for small farmers who have limited capacity for recordkeeping and accounting. Calculating profit can be difficult because it involves thinking through all the costs of production. At the most basic level, profit is the difference between total revenue, or money earned from the sale of the product, and total cost of production. To see positive profits, total revenue must be greater than total cost of production. To determine if the sale of the new value-added product will result in higher profit compared with profits earned from selling raw agricultural products, small farmers must calculate profit in both scenarios and then compare them to see which is greater.

So are value-added products economically beneficial to our F2F hosts? It depends. And F2F volunteers can help hosts answer this question. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Call for Volunteers!

Partners has some exciting volunteer opportunities! If you are interested in volunteering with the Farmer-to-Farmer program, please send your resume and all program inquiries to Orli Handmaker at ohandmaker@partners.net or call (202) 524-6295.
GUATEMALA

Greenhouse Production Expert (Ornamental Plants, Flowers, and Foliage) (Guatemala, March-May 2016: 2-3 weeks)

F2F is seeking a professional with experience in greenhouse production and management, new greenhouse production techniques for ornamental plants, and foliage and flower farms. Experience with tropical and subtropical crops is desired. It is important that the selected volunteer is aware of innovative methods in greenhouse management and production for small and large producers of ornamental plants, foliage and flowers. The goal of this assignment is to teach ornamental plant producers about new greenhouse production and management methods. The methods currently used are out of date and do not take into consideration the different characteristics, needs, lifespans, and requirements of the different species produced by the farms in the sector. Therefore, the volunteer will assist producers in addressing their greenhouse production problems and provide techniques and recommendations to increase production. The hope is that these new techniques and processes will lead to increased sales revenue and increased exports for the producers. The producers have also asked that the volunteer provide information on ways to access new information (i.e., trends, technology, etc.) on greenhouse management and production so they can continue to learn after the assignment is over. The expected deliverables for this assignment are a manual of guidelines for greenhouse production, a trip report, at least one outreach activity, and recommendations for further work.

Expert in Propagation Methods (Ornamental Plants, Flowers, and Foliage) (Guatemala, March-May 2016: 2-3 weeks)
F2F is seeking a professional with experience in new propagation techniques for ornamental plants, foliage and flower production farms. It is best if the volunteer has experience working with tropical and subtropical crops. It is important that the assigned volunteer is aware of innovative methods in propagation and fertilization for small and large producers of ornamental plants, foliage and flowers. The goal of this assignment is to teach growers of ornamental plants, flowers, and foliage about new propagation techniques. The methods the host currently uses are outdated and do not consider the different characteristics, needs, lifespans and requirements of each species and variety that they grow. This assignment is intended to educate these producers on the different techniques available for the propagation of ornamental plants, foliage and flowers. The hope is that by adapting new and improved methods and practices, the host will see an increase in production volumes followed by an increase in sales revenue and exports. The expected deliverables for this assignment are a manual of guidelines on propagation techniques, a trip report, at least one outreach activity, and recommendations for further work.

NICARAGUA

Fruit Processing Specialist I (Dried Fruit) (Nicaragua, January-March 2016: 2 weeks)

Due to large amounts of post-harvest waste and loss, a F2F volunteer is requested to train members in several women’s cooperatives in Nueva Guinea to produce dried fruit using several fruits including pineapple and guava. The volunteer will need to help the women construct a basic low resource solar fruit drier as machinery is not available. It is expected that at the end of the assignment hosts will be able to rustically process pineapple and guava to reduce post-harvest losses and increase their income. The volunteer should have experience with artisanal processing of various fruits into dried fruit, experience building low-resource solar fruit driers, and experience working in low resource communities in developing countries is preferred, as is Spanish speaking proficiency. The expected deliverables for this assignment are hands-on workshops and trainings on fruit processing, construction of a solar fruit drier for each participating host, a one-page guide with pictures on fruit drying processes, a trip report, an outreach activity, and recommendations for further work.

Fruit Processing Specialist II (Canned Fruit and Jams) (Nicaragua, January-March 2016: 2 weeks)

Due to large amounts of postharvest waste and loss, a F2F volunteer is requested to train members in several women’s cooperatives in Nueva Guinea to produce several artisanal value-added products (possibly including jam, canned fruit, etc.) from pineapple and guava. Please note that machinery is not available and any canning or other processing will have to be done with access to very few resources. It is expected that at the end of the assignment hosts will be able to rustically process pineapple and guava to reduce post-harvest losses and increase their income. The volunteer should have experience with artisanal processing of various fruits into jams, canned fruit, etc., and experience working in low resource communities in developing countries is preferred, as is Spanish speaking proficiency. The expected deliverables for this assignment are hands-on workshops and trainings on fruit processing and canning, a one-page guide with pictures on fruit processing and canning, a trip report, an outreach activity, and recommendations for further work.

4-H Leadership Specialist (Nicargua, March-May 2016: 2 weeks)

F2F is currently seeking a 4-H leadership specialist volunteer. The main host for this assignment is the Fabretto Foundation, whose mission is to ensure that children, families and communities in the most disadvantaged areas of Nicaragua, reach their full potential and improve their future opportunities through education and nutrition. Fabretto implements an innovative high school program called SAT (Tutorial Learning System) in rural and remote communities; the program is tailored to the real needs of these young people and the curriculum is based on the methodology of "learning by doing". Since tutors are community leaders that don’t necessarily have formal training to teach it is critical that they are consistently building their capacity to ensure the program is effective. The F2F volunteer will meet with Fabretto leadership in Managua to discuss their needs and develop a strategy to build 4-H (or similar methodology) leadership activities and trainings into their current curriculum. Following this assignment tutors should have a basic understanding of 4H leadership activities and trainings and be able to implement them in their classes throughout Nicaragua. The ideal candidate for this assignment will have experience training trainers (teachers and student leaders) in 4-H (or comparable) methodology, specifically in leadership topics. It is also preferred that the volunteer have experience working with disadvantaged populations and have Spanish working proficiency. The expected deliverables for this assignment are trainings of trainers, a plan and curriculum materials for future trainings, at least one outreach activity, a trip report, and recommendations for further work.

Youth Entrepreneurship and Business Specialist (Nicaragua, March-May 2016: 2 weeks)
F2F is currently seeking a youth entrepreneurship and business specialist to work with the Fabretto Foundation. The Fabretto Foundation is the main host for this assignment and their mission is to ensure that children, families and communities in the most disadvantaged areas of Nicaragua, reach their full potential and improve their future opportunities through education and nutrition. Fabretto implements an innovative high school program called SAT (Tutorial Learning System) in rural and remote communities; the program is tailored to the real needs of these young people and the curriculum is based on the methodology of "learning by doing". Since tutors are community leaders that don’t necessarily have formal training to teach it is critical that they are consistently building their capacity to ensure the program is effective. The F2F volunteer will first meet with Fabretto leadership in Managua to discuss their needs and develop a strategy to build youth business skills (i.e. how to develop a business plan, feasibility study, cost-benefit analysis, marketing, managing, etc.) trainings and activities into their current curriculum. Following this assignment tutors will know how to deliver basic business skills trainings and activities to youth. The tutors’ ability to conduct these trainings will help empower rural youth in Nueva Guinea and other parts of Nicaragua create livelihood opportunities for themselves. The ideal candidate for this assignment will have experience training trainers in youth entrepreneurship and business skills, experience working with disadvantaged populations, and preferably have Spanish working proficiency. The expected deliverables for this assignment are trainings of trainers, a plan and curriculum for future trainings, at least one outreach activity, a trip report, and recommendations for further work.

Soil Conservation Specialist (Nicaragua, April-May 2016: 2 weeks)
F2F is currently seeking a soil conservation expert volunteer to work with smallholder farms in Nicaragua. Smallholder farms in the province of Nueva Guinea are typically found on rolling hills and contain tropical clay soils. The topography of the land, combined with poor soil management practices and hard rainfall leads to excessive soil erosion and declining soil fertility. Although crops produced on the farms vary, including cassava, taro, pineapple, guava, passion fruit, maize, bananas, plantains, peppers, cocoa, and coffee, soil erosion is an ongoing issue that limits farm productivity in both the short and long term. An F2F volunteer is needed to train members of the hosts, UNAG and The Fabretto Foundation, in soil conservation best management practices. Through trainings, workshops, and demonstration plots, farmers with UNAG and Fabretto will learn how to sustainably reduce soil erosion and increase soil fertility on their farms. The ideal candidate for this assignment will have experience working with agriculture and soil conservation in the humid lowland tropics, and preferably a graduate degree in agronomy, horticulture, soil science or a related field, Spanish language skills, and experience working in low resources communities in developing countries. The expected deliverables for this assignment are workshops and trainings on soil conservation practices, the creation of demonstration plots with the hosts that will help teach them about soil conservation practices, at least one outreach activity, a trip report, and recommendations for further work.


Integrated Pest Management Specialist (Nicaragua, April-May 2016: 2 weeks)
F2F is currently seeking an integrated pest management expert volunteer to work with smallholder farms in Nicaragua. Smallholder farmers in Nueva Guinea are low resource, with limited access to agricultural inputs. A variety of pests and diseases are a common problem among smallholder farmers that leads to lower yields and subsequent income. Furthermore, the prevalence of pests and diseases are increasing due, in part, to changing climate and weather patterns. Although crops produced on the farms vary, including cassava, taro, pineapple, guava, passion fruit, maize, bananas, plantains, peppers, cocoa, and coffee, smallholder farmers in Nueva Guinea have requested assistance to develop integrated pest management schemes for their farms to mitigate losses in both the short and long term. An F2F volunteer is needed to train UNAG and Fabretto in integrated pest management practices for a variety of cropping systems. Through trainings, workshops, and demonstration plots, farmers with UNAG and Fabretto will learn how to implement integrated pest management systems on their farms. The ideal candidate for this assignment will have experience working in agriculture and integrated pest management in the humid lowland tropics, and preferably will have a graduate degree in agronomy, horticulture, entomology, or a related field, experience working in low resource communities in developing countries, and Spanish language skills. The expected deliverables for this assignment are workshops and trainings on integrated pest management practices, the creation of demonstration plots with the hosts that will help teach them about integrated pest management practices, at least one outreach activity, a trip report, and recommendations for further work.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC


The objective of our Farmer-to-Farmer program in the Dominican Republic is to increase the resilience of vulnerable populations to the unpredictable impacts of global climate change. We are looking for experts in a variety of fields such as:
- Soil and water conservation
- Agroforestry
- Solid waste management
- Pest and disease management of bananas
- Irrigation technologies for banana sector
- Alternative energy (i.e., wind, solar)
- Environmental education
- Greenhouse management and production

If you have experience in those areas and are interested in future assignments, please let us know. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Sustainable Agriculture: Working with Kichwa Communities in Ecuador’s Amazon Basin

Thomas "Rip" Winkel recently returned from a F2F assignment near Puyo, Ecuador working with smallholder cacao farmers in the Amazon Basin. Below he shares his experience:

Once again I was privileged to work with Partners of the Americas on a Farmer-to-Farmer assignment funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This time the volunteer assignment I completed was in Ecuador, South America – an old stomping ground of mine when I served in the Peace Corps. A unique aspect of this assignment, however, is that it lasted for six weeks compared to the standard two- to four-week assignment in order to have more follow-up on trainings and maximize impact.

The main goal of this assignment was to train Arajuno Road Project (ARP) – a local NGO – extension agents and leaders from several communities in sustainable agricultural practices and cacao best management practices. This included facilitating workshops/training sessions on sustainable cacao production (pruning, grafting, soil fertility, etc.) and developing demonstration plots displaying proper planting practices of slips, roots or seeds, spacing, soil amendment practices, maintenance, etc. of possible tropical crops not being grown currently. Additionally, I conducted soil sampling and analysis of the various communities for its pH levels, and N, P, K availability.

I arrived in Quito late Saturday night along with Alex Matthews, another F2F volunteer assigned to this project. The next morning we traveled to Puyo, a small city over on the east side of the Andes mountain range in the province of Pastaza. The trip lasted about five hours. By the time we arrived, it was mid-afternoon, and not too late to find something to eat down in the center of town.

That very next morning we met with the ARP staff to get aquainted and discuss the assignment goals and objectives. We met with the six different communities that ARP currently assists, although our primary hosts were the communities of Esfuerzo, and Chuya Yaku. Esfuerzo is an easy 20 minute bus ride north of Puyo, while Chuya Yaku is much deeper into the undeveloped Amazonian basin – a two hour bus ride (one way) that snakes through the lush jungle along steep, winding dirt roads that are hardly wide enough for one vehicle. 

F2F volunteer Rip Winkel analyzing soil samples
During the beginning of the assignment, Alex and I went to many of the communities to meet the host farmer groups and conduct a rapid rural appraisal, assessing the agricultural, environmental, social and economic realities on the ground. Part of the agricultural assessment consisted of conducting basic soil analyses in the communities. The results of the soil analyses indicated the region to be a typical ‘tropical soil’, similar to what I came across in Nueva Guinea, Nicaragua on my last Farmer-to-Farmer assignment. The pH was around 4.0 in all the samples taken, and the levels of N, P, and K were all low to very low. One characteristic I found different from the Nicaraguan soil samples, however, is that soil textures here have very low percentages of clay particles. This coupled with the low pH and high amounts of precipitation received make for soils that have little to no available nutrients. This in turn, would almost necessitate a regular addition of fertilizer, chemical or organic, to any cultivar being grown.

After the appraisal was complete, we planned trainings, sourced materials for upcoming workshops, and made contacts with businesses that could serve as useful market linkages for the communities now and in the future. In the following weeks we conducted trainings and consulted with farmers regarding their cropping systems.

Pineapple demonstration plot in Esfuerzo
Highlights from Esfuerzo
One highlight was working with local farmers in Esfuerzo to establish various demonstration plots. One plot was established using three different pineapple (Ananas comosus) cultivars to gauge the potential productivity and profitability of each in their community. While a common planting scheme in Esfuerzo is to plant pineapple slips at distances from to 60 cm to 75 cm apart, we planted 100 pineapple slips using spacing recommended for commercial production – one 15 m bed with two 60 cm spaced rows and 30 cm between each plant.

Additional small demonstration plots were developed for coffee (Coffea arabica) and cacao (Theobroma cacao). Five coffee trees and five cacao trees were planted using recommended planting distances within recommended densities for commercial production (3m x 3m). The demonstration plots were divided into three even sections; where two of these areas received treatments. One area was given an application of locally made compost incorporated into the soil. The second area was given an application of calcium incorporated into the soil, where in 30 days an application of a complete fertilizer will be applied. The third area is a control. These treatments are to demonstrate effects that amending the soil might have on plant growth and more importantly their yields.

ARP extension agents will follow up with the community members to make sure the demonstration plots are properly maintained. As the demonstration plots in Esfuerzo mature, farmers will be able to see a multitude of options available to them to increase their yields and household income.

Highlights from Chuya Yaku
Another highlight from the assignment was working deep in the rainforest with cacao farmers in the community of Chuya Yaku. This community consists of 10 families, each with their own cacao orchard, totaling over 40 hectares combined. The majority of cacao trees were planted between three and seven years ago. Most of the trees had never been pruned or managed to any extent, with many of them on the verge of being engulfed by the aggressive jungle.

Conducting hands-on grafting and pruning workshops in Chuya Yaku
We conducted weekly presentations and sessions on how to manage and prune cacao trees at all stages of development. Our workshops were very hands-on. On a given day, groups of community members met with Alex and me on a different farm to properly prune approximately 40 trees. These plots of 40 trees will be used for two purposes: 1) serve as an example for farmers to prune the rest of their trees; and 2) serve as an experimental plot so farmers can see the impact that pruning has on their yields. In addition to pruning workshops, I also led hands-on grafting workshops. We would select scions from high yielding cacao cultivars to graft on to the farmers' established trees. Using grafted trees that are well pruned will substantially increase the farmers' cacao yields and ultimately their household income and food security.