News and Events

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."



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


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


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


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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Josh Felsk

This article was originally written by Land O'Lakes International Development. 

Name: Josh Felsk

Current title/profession: Food Safety Inspector, Michigan Department of Agriculture

Current hometown: Lansing, Michigan

Areas of expertise: Food safety


Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer Program in Middle East and North Africa

Location of the project: Lebanon

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


Since 2014, Lebanon has been facing a food safety crisis with foodbourne illnesses on the rise. In order to maintain the health of citizens and ensure the safety of exported food products, the country needs to build the capacity of governmental food inspectors in food safety. In March 2016, Land O’Lakes International Development sent Josh Felsk, a Food Safety Inspector from the Michigan Department of Agriculture, to Lebanon through the US Agency for International Developmentfunded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program.

Control of food Safety in Lebanon is the responsibility of several governmental authorities, but the Ministry of Economy and Trade is in charge of all consumable products placed on the market, including food. While in Lebanon, Felsk worked closely with this ministry to raise the bar on food inspection. He trained inspectors on best practices in food examination, sampling, investigation techniques and other relevant topics.

Felsk shared his practical experience with more than a hundred food inspectors (36 males and 69 females) and 20 food business operators, building knowledge and skills for better performance and more efficient work output. Attendees learned about the Michigan State Food Safety Code, new inspection methods, and techniques that peers follow in the US, and were able to validate their own. Group work, open discussions and questions ensured an interactive and productive atmosphere.

Classroom training was just half of Felsk’s assignment. He also made field visits to more than four facilities, including a bakery, restaurant and two supermarkets where he was able to witness and compare different practices. Twenty inspectors (nine males and eleven females) joined Felsk for the first visits, which allowed them to have a more hands-on training with the expert. The Consumer Protection Directorate is pleased with the knowledge that Felsk was able to share and has requested similar follow-up assignments focusing on field visit trainings with US.-based expert volunteers.

Hans Kandel

This article was originally written and published by the Farm Forum here

Name: Hans Kandel

Current title/profession: Extension Agronomist at North Dakota State University

Current hometown: Fargo, North Dakota

Areas of expertise: Agronomy, crops, higher education


Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer in East Africa

Location of the project: Sierra Leone

Organization that sent the volunteer: Partners of the Americas


North Dakota State University professor and Extension agronomist Hans Kandel traveled to Sierra Leone for two weeks in September to share his technical skills and expertise with local farmers.

Kandel’s assignment is part of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program that promotes economic growth, enhanced nutrition through access to healthy food and agricultural development in West and East Africa. Farmer-to-Farmer is funded by the U.S Agency for International Development.

The F2F program matches the technical expertise of U.S. famers and professionals in agri-businesses, farming cooperatives and universities with farmers in developing countries to assist them in improving agricultural productivity, accessing new markets and increasing their incomes.

Sierra Leone is on the coast of West Africa. About three-fourths of the 7.5 million citizens depend on agriculture for their income and 60 percent live in rural areas. An estimated 25 percent of the population cannot afford minimum daily caloric requirements and face regular difficulties meeting food, shelter and clothing needs.

“There are many natural resources available in Sierra Leone, but farmers lack the knowledge to utilize these resources,” Kandel said. “I provided training on rice production. Farmers did not know about the importance of adding compost, manure and other nutrients to their fields.”

Kandel added, “Rice is the main food staple. Presently, the country imports rice to meet the local demand. However, the country could produce enough rice for its own consumption if subsistence farmers utilized improved crop management practices.”

Sierra Leone faces many challenges in reaching its agricultural potential. They include a lack of expertise, weak producer organizations, low access to technology, limited infrastructure, institutional and financial obstacles to private sector development, and limited government funding.

During his time abroad, Kandel worked with 21 leader farmers who were trained for eight days in basic rice production issues, as well as practical application of the principles learned.

Most of Kandel’s time was spent in Magburaka in the northern province of Sierra Leone, working with Agenda for Community Transformation-Sierra Leone (ACT-SL), a farmer-driven organization.

“Farmers were very receptive to the concepts presented and indicated an enthusiasm to adopt proper seedbed preparation, transplanting, fertilizing and weeding of rice,” Kandel stated.

“We are certain that this program will be beneficial not just to the farmers in West and East Africa but also to the experts from America,” said Bruce White, director of the CRS program. “It’s going to make the world a little bit smaller and a whole lot better for everyone involved.”

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."


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


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


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


Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer in Panama

Location of the project: Panama

Organization that sent the volunteer: Partners of the Americas


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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Dr. Mehboob Sheikh

This article was originally written by Florida A&M University's F2F program staff. 

Name: Dr. Mehboob Sheikh

Current title/profession: Professor at Florida A&M University

Current hometown: Tallahassee, Florida

Areas of expertise: Agriculture, botany


Name of project: FAMU India Climate Smart Agriculture Farmer-to-Farmer Program

Location of the project: India

Organization that sent the volunteer: Florida A&M University, under Volunters for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA)'s Special Program Support Project (SPSP)


In India’s Gujarat State, farmers have suffered great losses in their harvest and income due to high levels of aflatoxin contaminating their peanut crops. To help address this challenge, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU)’s sent volunteer expert Dr. Mehboob Sheikh in June 2017 to train farmers on ways to monitor and prevent aflatoxin contamination, as part of FAMU’s Farmer-to-Farmer program under Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA)’s Special Program Support Project (SPSP). This was Dr. Sheikh’s first time volunteering for the VEGA F2F Program, and he trained a total of 400 local partners, including men and women farmers, agricultural extension staff and university faculty.

A key issue that Dr. Sheikh addressed was preventing and minimizing aflatoxin contamination pre- and post-harvest. Dr. Sheikh trained his local partners on methods to detect and decontaminate aflatoxin levels in harvested lots, how to follow best management practices to avoid contamination and how to prevent Aspergillus fungal entry into seed through using drought-tolerant genotypes. Raising awareness of aflatoxin contamination was an important part of Dr. Sheikh’s approach, but he also emphasized focusing on growing and developing drought tolerant and salt tolerant crop varieties in the future. Dr. Sheik identified a diverse range of issues to be addressed in the future, including increasing product value and consumer acceptance, accelerating date palm propagation and multiplication and setting up a demonstration site to test new crop varieties.

Dr. Sheikh went beyond his project volunteer duties and extended his visit, at his own time and expense, after completing his assignment so that he could meet and secure appropriate plant material for future use in FAMU’s F2F program. In addition, he met with Vice Chancellors of the Acharya N. G. Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU) and the University of Agricultural Sciences (GKVK) to discuss warm climate grapes and establish and renew Memorandums of Understandings (MOU’s) with those institutions, helping to strengthen F2F partnerships with India and positively impact local partners. As a result of Dr. Sheikh’s outstanding work on this assignment, he volunteered again in January 2018 as part of a new FAMU India F2F project that builds on the important work of their first F2F small grant project to help Indian farmers increase their productivity. Per Dr. Sheikh’s recommendation from his first assignment, part of his 2018 assignment included developing an implementation strategy for a Demonstration Farm at the Vivekanand Research and Training Institute (VRTI) in Mandvi, India. Dr. Sheikh’s valuable contributions to FAMU’s F2F program have been critical in bettering Indian farmers’ livelihoods, and has paved a path forward for better addressing challenges with crop varieties and aflatoxin contamination.

Jon Thiele

This article was originally written by CNFA. 

Name: Jon Thiele

Areas of expertise: Agribusiness, microfinance


Name of project: Southern Africa Farmer-to-Farmer Program

Location of the project: Congo

Organization that sent the volunteer: Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture


Jon Thiele is an agribusiness and microfinance expert who has focused on international development consulting for more than 20 years. In 2015, he further applied those skills by volunteering with Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture in M’Banza, Congo through the Farmer-to-Farmer program. During his time working with the Bobocco Cooperative, Jon worked with local farmers to cultivate a viable cooperative structure, including assisting in the development of necessary organizational tools and training members in sustainable financial management skills.

Jon Thiele is a development professional with experience as manager and technical expert on multifaceted development programs in over twenty countries . He combines extensive management experience, knowledge of regulations and compliance, and skills in economic development, gender, and capacity building. Having led teams as large as 72, he has broad experience in building teams in complex environments.

Having designed and led many programs, notable recent work includes the design and implementation of anti-poverty programs in eight post-conflict countries through which over 120,000 women have achieved and sustain strong improvements in income and assets through improved agribusiness and workforce participation.

Jon has taken on the lead role in winning proposals for a range of funders with particular strength in analysis (both desk review of the client’s interests and field assessments), program concept, project design, and the technical elements of the proposal itself. Donor experience includes USAID, the US State Department, Danida, the EU, DFID, and several private foundations.