News and Events

Carmen Byce

Name: Carmen Byce

Current title/profession: Agricultural and Extension Development Specialist

Current hometown: College Station, Texas

Areas of expertise: Project management, capacity building, education


ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW

Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer in Ethiopia

Location of the project: Ethiopia

Organization that sent the volunteer: Catholic Relief Services (CRS)


VOLUNTEER IMPACT

The Melka Abune Aregawi Nunnery runs various community and welfare services including managing 40 acres of small scale agricultural production of citrus and vegetables with sales supporting school programming and housing and food for over 115 orphaned girls. The girls lost their families through HIV/AIDS, civil wars, displacement, famines, and other social problems, and are drawn from different regions of Ethiopia. The nunnery was recruited as a Farmer-to-Farmer host based on the role it plays in training youth on horticulture, bee-keeping and dairy production. The nunnery also manages a primary and secondary schools for the orphans, which also serves the local community, helping the social integration with the community.  Although the nunnery is giving commendable services to meet the needs of the girls, socio-economic, emotional and psychological challenges remain. The nunnery is not well equipped to handle these additional challenges, and does not have the capacity to hire trained experts. It is for this reason they requested for a F2F volunteer to train on leadership, life-skills and basic entrepreneurial skills.

Carmen Byce, a Program Coordinator at Texas A&M Agri Life’s Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture and a co-owner of a small farm in Franklin, US, travelled to Ethiopia in December 2015 and trained 45 persons (42 orphan girls and 3 nuns).  The girls were mostly in grades 8-10, most of them teenagers. It was the first time that the orphan girls got such exposure to realize their own potential and build their skills outside of formal education. It took some time but they started interacting more freely, and even notable improvement was seen in their confidence during and after the training days.

The training provided opportunities for the girls to explore their natural responses to different environments and situations. Competitive team building exercises, short stories and play presentations as well as guidance on developing personal goals and action planning prepared them to become confident, competitive and strong leaders. The positive response and results of the training were immediate, and have continued to have lasting impact for the orphans and nuns.

The trained girls are now mentors and trainer of the younger girls, they exhibit emotional maturity and have enhanced leadership and conflict resolution abilities. According the mother superior, these girls are role models within and outside the nunnery and will excel in their fields of choice.

The positive experience went both ways. Carmen had this to say; ‘Volunteering with Farmer-to-Farmer is without exaggeration, a life changing experience.  When I first learned of this opportunity to volunteer in Ethiopia, through my membership in American Agri-Women, I knew immediately I wanted to volunteer to support these efforts, and more specifically to support leadership development amount girls and young adults that have faced such struggles in their lives. Not to my surprise, I gained a wealth of knowledge.’ and irreplaceable experiences from my kind hosts as well as the girls I worked with.’

This article was written by CRS. Download the PDF below. 

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David Pearce

"After implementing changes introduced by David, Abdi Gudina Dairy Cooperative increased membership by 20; annual organizational revenue (from membership dues) increased from $1,624 to $2,200; annual sales increased from $954 to $18,838; and net annual income increased from $405 to $1,540."

                                                                                                       


ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW

Home State: North Dakota, U.S.

Country: Ethiopia

Core Implementer: Winrock International

Volunteer Assignment and Impact:

 During his volunteer assignment in Ethiopia, David trained  members of two dairy cooperatives, Abdi Gudina Dairy Cooperative and Chefe Kersa, on how to  improve their organizational capacity and increase their incomes. They were trained to redefine the roles and responsibilities of different committees, introduce new participatory procedures within their meetings, revise their constitution and by-laws, and establish regular reporting systems on finance and physical performance to the general assembly. In addition, both cooperatives developed an action plan for one year, and called a general meeting to disclose and endorse the plan with their members. With these changes in place, the members are now sharing agenda points before meetings, exercising their free voting rights, and accessing important information on the cooperatives’ status every quarter. In addition, both cooperatives implemented a democratic leadership style to ensure transparency. 

According to Gaarii Hurrisaa, one of the cooperative members, , David’s training  restored the dairy operation. For example, the members regained their confidence and commitment to the Cooperative, the amount of milk collected and sold increased, and the quality of the milk improved, due to the members’ high engagement s in controlling quality factors and consumers’ willingness to pay for quality. Hurrisaa also added that, “we also know where the money goes now as things become more transparent.” All of these positive changes amounted to an increase in twenty new members, an increase in the organization’s annual revenue (from membership dues) from $1,624 to $2,200, an increase in annual sales from $954 to $18,838; and an increase in net annual income from $405 to $1,540.
The Chefe Kersa Dairy Cooperative, which was nearly nonfunctional before David’s volunteer assignment, has also experienced positive impacts as a result of his training. For example, the Cooperative instituted a more democratic leadership style, which has allowed members to regain their confidence in the cooperative’s leadership and management. In addition, their ability to improve their record keeping capabilities has helped them analyze their actual income expenses and profits. Overall, in the past year, Chefe Kersa’s membership has increased by 32 members; annual sales have increased by $4,420; net annual income increased by $3,549; and the members shared dividends of $1,722, for the first time in three years. 

Mike Sturdivant

"We found happiness without indoor plumbing! They face so many barriers, but are so grateful for what they have. We took conservation coloring books and gave these to the children—the kids had never seen a crayon. [The gifts] brought big smiles to the children. The generosity of the Myanmar people often brought us to tears." 

Name: Mike Sturdivant

Current title/profession: Soil Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service

Current hometown: Chatham County, North Carolina

Areas of expertise: Management practices, capacity building, soil conservation, food security, climate change


ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW

Name of project: Asia Farmer-to-Farmer

Location of the project: Burma

Organization that sent the volunteer: Winrock International

Mike Sturdivant is a soil conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a department of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Chatham County, North Carolina. He works with farmers to incorporate best management practices and trains new USDA employees across the U.S.

Mike volunteered on an USAID-funded project to train 40 agriculture extension agents in Myanmar on best management practices, food security, climate change and gender analysis. Climate change, Mike found, is widely acknowledged in Myanmar, where everyone from the children to the elders is aware of the rising temperatures and sea levels and more severe storms. In advance of his trip, Mike worked closely, almost full time for two months, with the Winrock Program Manager to begin to develop a presentation, review reports on previous trainings and learn about farming conditions in Myanmar. His wife Margaret, a nurse, joined him (at their own expense) on the trip and prepared a presentation on nutrition and health. Once on the ground, Mike and two interpreters, one with specialized agricultural knowledge and the other who could speak local dialects, spent two and a half weeks visiting farms, where Margaret took detailed notes and pictures. Mike was struck by how comfortable he felt talking with farmers because their experiences resonated with issues experienced by farmers he’s been advising his whole career. The four-day training Mike led was well received by the Myanmar extension agents, who had a hunger to learn new practices. Mike provided recommendations, using the photos and examples he’d gathered on the farm visits, about laying out farms, animal waste, reforestation, and, perhaps most critical, a metric conversion system and best practices for spraying herbicides and insecticides.

Mike had been extremely busy with work and exhausted before he left for Myanmar, but he now has a different appreciation for work. What Mike learned from the Myanmar farmers, and has passed on to his clients in North Carolina, is to make do as best you can with the resources and equipment you have, rather than always buying the latest technology. At the request of organizations in and around their home community, Mike and Margaret have already shared their experiences with about 200 people.

 

Dr. Ashraf Hassan

Name: Dr. Ashraf Hassan

Current title/profession: Manager of Research & Development at Daisy Brand

Current hometown: Dallas, Texas

Areas of expertise: Food safety, food science, research


ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW

Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

Location of the project: Lebanon

Organization that sent the volunteer: Land O'Lakes International Development


VOLUNTEER IMPACT

Associate Professor of Dairy Science at South Dakota State University, Dr. Ashraf Hassan, recently completed a successful two-week volunteer abroad assignment in Lebanon. His visit was made possible by the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Middle East and North Africa (MENA) program, which is being led by Land O’Lakes International Development and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). While on assignment in Lebanon, Dr. Hassan helped a small dairy company gain a competitive advantage by improving sanitation and expanding their products to include cheddar, feta, soft mozzarella, pizza, braid, and Gouda cheeses.

“I look at such volunteer assignments as opportunities to help small producers and support the mission of our Dairy Science Department and South Dakota State University,” explained Dr. Ashraf Hassan. “I also learned about the dairy industry in different parts of the world. Dairy products and the export of their ingredients plays an important role in the US economy.”

Prior to working with Dr. Hassan, the Lebanese company manufactured local white cheeses and an organic, strained, salted yogurt called Labneh. It’s one of very few companies in Lebanon that manufactures organic local dairy products, and Hassan knew adding organic international cheeses would give them a competitive advantage.

“My objective was to adapt the cheese making protocols to fit within the facilities available in the plant, without putting a burden on the company to invest in new equipment,” he said. Hassan shared plant sanitation and manufacturing best practices to help the company reduce cost, shorten its processing times, and eliminate major sources of contamination.

The host explained, “I was very happy when Dr. Hassan came and saw my cheese production site and equipment. I was afraid he [would] turn his back and leave [because] it had so many hygiene problems—plus we didn’t have the technical knowledge about new types of cheese production—but he was extremely helpful in assisting me through the progress.” He says Dr. Hassan’s assistance will enable him to expand his product line and, hopefully, increase sales.

While in Lebanon, Hassan conducted a cheese-making workshop at a medium-sized dairy company organized by the Lebanese’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In addition to the time Hassan spent with the dairy industry, he also visited the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the American University of Beirut (AUB).

“My goal was to explore collaborative possibilities and create opportunities for SDSU Dairy Science faculty and students,” he said. “It’s very important to share the needs of the dairy industry around the world with our dairy manufacturing students who will lead the dairy industry in the near future.”

This article was written by Land O'Lakes International Development. Download the PDF below. 

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Howard Fenton

Originally posted by Partners of the Americas here.

"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."


ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW

Project: Record-keeping in Coffee Cooperatives

Profession: Accountant

Implementer: Partners of the Americas

Volunteer Assignment & Impact: 

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 record-keeping analysis.

For coffee cooperatives in Haiti’s northern regions surrounding Cap-Haitien, record-keeping 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!

David Roberts

F2F volunteer David Roberts (third from left) collaborated with local dairy farmers to increase milk production.

 

Name: David Roberts

Current title/profession: State Grazing Lands Specialist

Current hometown: Marcy, New York

Areas of expertise: Livestock husbandry and pasture management

Education: BS, Colorado State University


ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW

Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer in Kyrgyzstan Improving Milk and Meat Production

Location of the project: Naryn Oblast, Kyrgyzstan

Organization that sent the volunteer: ACDI/VOCA


VOLUNTEER IMPACT

F2F Volunteer Helps Boost Milk Production and Incomes in Kyrgyzstan

In 2007, Emilbek Shamyrkanov started his own cattle-rearing business and dairy farm in northeast Kyrgyzstan to provide extra income for his family. Beginning with five cows, Emilbek steadily increased his herd to 40 over the past decade. Milk production among his dairy cows, however, was consistently low, earning him little profit. Emilbek wasn’t sure how to increase production but knew that something had to change for his family’s sake.

To help Emilbek and other local dairy farmers troubleshoot their milk production problems, USAID Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) volunteer David Roberts, a livestock specialist from New York with 42 years of experience, arrived in Kyrgyzstan in July 2016 to complete a two-week assignment. David stayed with Emilbek and his family for eight days, adding that “Emil and his family welcomed me and made my stay very comfortable, showing me their culture first hand.”

 During his assignment, David toured several farms and a livestock market, and spoke with farmers to better understand the agricultural context and the constraints farmers face. “It was evident that since the fall of the Soviet Union, the supply chain has been disrupted. Purchasing feed, vaccines, and medicine for livestock is very difficult to do,” David observed.

To improve milk production in this context, David offered a series of easy-to-implement suggestions to help Emilbek and his fellow farmers upgrade housing conditions for the cows, which has been shown to increase milk production. David also suggested increasing the amount of protein in the animal feed to improve the health of the cows, leading to more milk.

After the visit, Emilbek set to work implementing David’s suggestions and quickly saw results: cows that were producing nine liters of milk were now producing up to 17 liters. “I have increased my income by nearly 20 percent, and I’m using this extra money to purchase more cows and improve the housing conditions for the cows,” Emilbek stated. After seeing this success, Emilbek is eager to continue working with his new friend. “I am ready to get more recommendations from David as I’ve already successfully applied his initial recommendations.” The esteem and respect is mutual as David continues to stay in touch with Emilbek and is learning Russian to more easily communicate with him.

David’s work in Kyrgyzstan is one piece of the broader USAID F2F program, which sends American farmers and agribusiness professionals around the world for short-term technical assistance assignments in food security and agricultural processing, production, and marketing. Since 2013, ACDI/VOCA has supported 245 volunteer assignments as part of our Eastern Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia F2F program to promote sustainable economic growth, food security, and agricultural development worldwide.

 

 

“I have increased my income by nearly 20 percent, and I’m using this extra money to purchase more cows and improve the housing conditions for the cows,”
– Emilbek Shamyrkanov, dairy farmer

Ian Robinson

Name: Ian Robinson

Current title/profession: Social Science Research Assistant

Current hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan

Areas of expertise: Capacity building


ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW

Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer in Panama

Location of the project: Panama

Organization that sent the volunteer: Partners of the Americas


VOLUNTEER IMPACT

Panama - Located in eastern Panama along the country’s border with Colombia, the Darien region is known for being a difficult-to-access swath of jungle. There are no formal banks in the indigenous communities, and the common strategies for residents if they need a quick influx of cash are to get a loan with usurious interest from a loan shark or to sell off some of their chickens. Furthermore, most community members would not be able to qualify for loans in traditional banks in the cities because they do not have the necessary paperwork or enough assets to apply for them.

Partners’ Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program teamed up with EducaFuturo to empower women in the community of Lajas Blancas to start and maintain their own community bank. EducaFuturo works with communities throughout the region to eradicate child labor. EducaFuturo’s work in Darien strives to keep children in school while training their parents with skills to improve their livelihoods.

Ian Robinson from Ann Arbor, Michigan has an MBA from the University of Michigan, Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, where he learned skills that could assist these women’s groups in Lajas Blancas. He had also been successful doing similar work with the US Peace Corps in Ecuador. Over the course of his two-week F2F workshop, each member of the women’s group learned how microcredit works, followed all of the necessary steps in starting a community bank, and made their first $1 deposit into the organization. Ian also trained the women on how to perform a feasibility analysis and what key questions to consider when starting a small business.

In addition to being an opportunity for savings and credit, the bank represents a chance for women to assume leadership roles. As a self-managing organization, each participant plays an integral role in ensuring that the bank functions as they intend. Furthermore, six women have leadership positions with greater responsibilities to allow the bank to achieve its goals. In a society where women rarely hold formal positions of power, the community bank represents a new opportunity for empowerment. The members understand that this institution can be a valuable tool to support their family’s livelihoods.

Partners of the Americas’ F2F Program is a US Agency for International Development (USAID) funded program that improves economic opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

This article was written by Partners of the Americas. Download the PDF below.

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Alan Robinson

Originally posted by Winrock International here.

"Inevitably this [meeting] takes place shoeless on a mat on the ground or in a traditional stilted wooden home where we might have been the first foreigners to set foot in their remote village."


ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW

Project: Ecotourism in Cambodia: Supporting Forest and Biodiversity (SFB) Project

Implementer: Winrock International 

Volunteer Assignment & Impact: 

“Critical to evaluating potential for developing community-based ecotourism is understanding people’s aspirations, abilities and local cultural or natural features which might be of interest to visitors. [My] very professional Winrock counterparts had already spent weeks or months in that process but our own short visits always began with a meeting with a local committee to get a sense of wants and needs. Inevitably this takes place shoeless on a mat on the ground or in a traditional stilted wooden home where we might have been the first foreigners to set foot in their remote village. At the end of the five-week project [I and my] colleagues hosted a workshop in which 20 representatives of these villages and provincial officials and conservation groups jointly developed ecotourism frameworks for the next several years of development. “One of [my] tasks involved suggesting an ecotourism strategy for villages along the Mekong River. One scenario would combine an adventurous small boat ascent of this mighty river with mountainbike explorations of undisturbed riverside forest, with overnight stays in village guesthouses. This section of the Mekong is home to small populations of the endangered freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin (photo below), glimpses of which would be one of the highlights of an ecotourism visit.” –Alan Robinson

SFB project staff noted that the participants in the trainings learned a lot of things from Alan especially on how to use locally available resources to attract visitors. In addition, the SFB project continues to assist these communities and is working with one to develop a business plan using the inputs from Alan’s training and the ecotourism products he recommended. 

Jock Brandis and Randy Shackelford

The aflatoxin tailgate test

Name: Jock Brandis and Randy Shackelford

Current title/profession: Jock Brandis is the director of R&D at Full Belly Project, Randy Shackelford is the QA manager for Mission Defense Corporation

Current hometown: Wilmington, NC

Areas of expertise: Agriculture value chain, crop yield, development solutions


ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW

Name of project: NCBA CLUSA's Farmer-to-Farmer Special Program Support Project in Zambia

Location of the project: Zambia

Organization that sent the volunteer: NCBA CLUSA through VEGA SPSP


VOLUNTEER IMPACT

Jock Brandis is the founder and research and development director of Full Belly Project, a North Carolina-based nonprofit that develops agricultural productivity tools. Jock began designing tools to solve development problems following a 2001 trip to Mali where he noticed the difficulty of shelling sun-dried peanuts. He promised to send a solution, only to find that no effective tool had been invented. He set about inventing the Universal Nut Sheller, which can be made anywhere from basic materials and shells peanuts 95% faster than hand-shelling.

National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International recruited Jock and Full Belly volunteer Randy Shackelford to help implement an USAID-funded project to address aflatoxin in peanuts. Their assignment was to teach a farming cooperative in Chipata, Zambia, how to prevent aflatoxin, a chemical that causes severe health consequences and keeps Zambian peanut products out of the European Union market. But their interest in solving the peanut aflatoxin problem has led them to go far beyond their original assignment.

Upon arriving, they saw that farmers were already employing good aflatoxin prevention practices. It didn’t take long to realize that the script they had arrived with wasn’t the right one. They set up the first-ever aflatoxin testing tailgate, using a portable on-the-spot test kit on farmers’ fields. All but one of the samples they tested registered levels well within EU export standards, however the peanut butters for sale locally did not. They concluded that the fungus is introduced during collection or processing, where a few contaminated peanuts can infect the whole supply. They trained the government lab director and technicians to use the test kit and left it with the local lab. The technicians are following Jock and Randy’s example and taking the test kits to farms rather than making farmers mail samples to the lab. This change delivers test results within 15 minutes rather than 3-4 weeks, letting both farmers and buyers know which peanuts are marketable so that contaminated products can be kept out of the food supply.

Jock and Randy advised farmers on concerns beyond aflatoxin, particularly drought, by introducing an effective, easy-to-use pump and discussing seed selection and planning for hotter, drier weather. They taught three cooperative members to make the Universal Nut Sheller so that members can more readily sell their produce. 

Jock and Randy have stayed engaged to move testing forward. The pair is determined to develop an “aflatoxin safe certification” for Zambia and, ultimately, to re-establish Zambia’s groundnut export market. They have already returned to begin testing an ozone generator, which they hope will help rid the local food supply of aflatoxin fungus.

Between visits they stay in touch with farmers. Nearly 5,000 Facebook followers and friends have learned about Chipata and Jock and Randy’s work there through their postings and local communication outreach.

 

“We were there to teach farmers how to grow safe peanuts, only to discover they were already doing it … We had to suddenly, on the fly, change our message.”
 

Julie Longland

Name: Julie Longland

Current title/profession: Technical Development Manager

Current hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina

Areas of expertise: Integrated pest management (IPM), pesticide development, seed treatment, pesticide mobility, whole organism biology, agriculture development and food security, science outreach and education, facilitation and training


ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW

Location of the projects: Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Mozambique, Nepal, Senegal

Organization that sent the volunteer: ACDI/VOCA


VOLUNTEER IMPACT

Julie Longland has served as a Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer in Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Mozambique, Nepal and Senegal. Ms. Longland is a scientist with extensive industry and academic experience in the areas of integrated pest management (IPM), pesticide development, seed treatment, pesticide mobility, whole organism biology, agriculture development and food security, science outreach and education, facilitation and training.

Her Farmer-to-Farmer work has largely been in Integrated Pest Management, which is a set of practices that combines both pesticide and non-pesticide methods to control agricultural pests. She has also helped farmers all over the the world use pesticides more safely and taught first aid for pesticide exposure. In Senegal, Ms. Longland advised a farmers group, most of whose members are women, on how to monitor their crops for signs of insect damage. She also helped the group identify and encourage beneficial insects, rotate their crops and store their seeds properly. In Nepal, Ms. Longland worked with farmers to identify and manage rhizome rot in ginger, club root in brassicas and how to deal with invasive bamboo. Ms. Longland often evokes family connections as a reason to use pesticides carefully and safely. For example, in farm supply stores in Ethiopia and Nepal where the owners’ children work and play, she helped the store owners develop ways of keeping pesticides away from children and food. The Farmer-to-Farmer program is very thankful to Ms. Longland for her time and expertise, and we hope to host her on many more volunteer assignments.

This article was written by ACDI/VOCA. Download the PDF below.

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