News and Events

Lance Staggenborg

Rwandan feed sector hungry for growth

Purina Mills plant manager shares his Farmer-to-Farmer experience


Volunteer: Lance Staggenborg

Date: March 2016

Implementer: Land O'Lakes International Development

Volunteer Interview: 

Lance, welcome back to the U.S. Before we get to your experience in Rwanda, please tell us about what you do for Land O'Lakes.

I have worked as a Plant Manager for Purina Mills for almost seven years in different plants in Texas, Louisiana, and now, Illinois. We run a facility that produces more than 50,000 annual tons–95 percent bulk and 5 percent packing.

So you traveled all the way from Illinois to Rwanda–what were your first impressions of the country?

It was my first time traveling to Africa. We hear things about third world countries that paint a picture in our minds–poverty, poor infrastructure and unsafe environments. Shortly after our plane touched down in the capital city of Kigali, I quickly realized my expectations were wrong. I felt safe the whole time and it was a beautiful, very clean country.

Sounds amazing! Tell us about what you were doing there.

Rwanda has only been in feed operations for about two years and their production capacity is small. To put this in perspective, one facility makes about six tons a month. At our Nashville, Illinois production facility, we can produce 4,000 tons a month. I visited six feed mills that produced dairy and poultry and some swine and even floating fish food. I provided recommendations on how they can improve operations. I went in thinking they needed help with increasing production due to being over capacity, but once again, my expectations were wrong. They had equipment, resources and logistics figured out. Their largest gap was lack of sales and marketing.

What may be holding them back from getting word out about their products?

They don't have a sales force and general marketing strategy. When I visit plants and ask who was on their sales team, they'd say either no one or one person, and that person was also working on production at the plant.

What recommendations did you give them?

  • Prioritize creating a sales team: This is a new concept for them so it takes education. I gave them ideas to put on branded t-shirts and talk to current and potential customers to understand their needs. Then, tell them how they can help improve their business by feeding their cows your product.
  • Find ways to lower prices: Instead of paying to import maize, I asked them to consider utilizing maize from local farms. In doing so, they can build the price of the maize into the feed and sell it back to the farmers at a lower price.
  • Seek other ways of distributing: Right now, they are distributing to large individual customers. I suggested they partner with vets in town centers to get their product in store fronts.
  • Managing the business: I offered some technical advice on how to manage operations. For example, they were not weighing raw materials when they arrived, so it was unclear if they were receiving what they were paying for. I suggested purchasing a scale to validate the weight of the inventory. I also suggested purchasing some relatively inexpensive equipment to mix, test and portion out their products more accurately.

What did you learn from the assignment that applies to your stateside job at Purina?

To not take things for granted. Our plants in the U.S. are incredibly efficient. Plants in Rwanda are using mostly manpower to unload and stack 15 tons of product a day. To complete a ten-ton batch, it takes them four hours. For us, it takes around 20 minutes. The amount of physical labor they do in their plants is probably 200 times higher than ours.

Did you do anything recreational while in Rwanda?

We went on a self-guided safari over the weekend to Akagera National Park where we saw elephants, water buffalo, giraffes and more. Rwanda is roughly the size of the Ireland, so I was able to see a lot of the country during our drives to the plant sites. The scenery, rolling green hills and mountains are gorgeous.

Any closing thoughts?

I had never heard of international development before this experience–I found out about Farmer-to-Farmer by reading about another employee's experience on The Source. It made me proud to work for a company that's doing good things in the world and not just solely focused on making money. We are helping people who aren't as fortunate–and as a result, we are moving the industry forward. If my support in Rwanda helps even one person in the end, I consider it a success.

The Farmer- to-Farmer Program is a USAID program which relies on the expertise of American volunteers to respond to the needs of farmers and agribusinesses in the developing world. Land O'Lakes International Development implements the program in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Most two to three week assignments are in Egypt or Lebanon, the two program core countries, but Lance's assignment was one of several "flexible" assignments outside of the programs core. If you or someone you know are interested in volunteering for the Farmer-to-Farmer Program and have agricultural, agribusiness, or production expertise email the Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer recruiter, Sadie Paschke for more information at

Christopher Mallek

Overlooking Ajaltoun forest, Chris is pointing to the ideal location to build a fire break to two community members.

Name: Christopher Mallek

Current title/profession: Fire Ecologist with the U.S Forest Service

Current hometown: Sacramento, California

Areas of expertise: Fire Management Planning and Operations


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

Location of the project: Lebanon

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


In March of 2016 , the Farmer-to-Farmer Program in the Middle East and North Africa (F2F MENA) implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development and funded by the United States Agency for International Development, sent Chris Mallek, an expert in fire ecology, to Lebanon at the request of the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative (LRI). LRI, a partnership between USAID and the US Forest Service (USFS), provides technical assistance and institutional support on sustainable forestry practies and wildfire management in economically depressed and environmentally degraded regions within Lebanon. F2F Lebanon has been partnering with LRI to provide highly skilled technical experts on short-term assignments to build the technical know-how of the program and its beneficiaries, and has fielded three forest management and fire prevention experts to Lebanon since 2015.

LRI’s community-based model is meant to build strong ties within and between communities and create sustainable reforestation with both local knowledge and outside expertise. At the request of LRI, F2F MENA sent Mallek to Lebanon to help them implement FIREWISE in 5 communities and evaluate its implementation in 2 pilot small communities. FIREWISE is a community-based, participatory approach to fire prevention that strives to empower local communities to work together for the prevention and reduction of wildfire risks and fits very well within the community-based model of LRI. Furthermore, LRI has been ensuring that this approach is replicable by making sure that the recommendations for each location take the local context into consideration and adapt FIREWISE in their own way, at a low cost.

Mallek conducted field visits to most of the sites and met with represenattaives of the local community. He ended his visit participating in a workshop where he trained at least one individual from each location on the fire prevention plan concept which was later used to set a customized Firewise action plan.

Mallek submitted to LRI a list of recommnedtaions based on the assessment he conducted with the local community representatives. His suggested measures that can be taken on a local scale to help prevent fires, vary form fuel management to the fireshed approach He also stressed on the safety procedures and person to go in case of emergency. LRI has relied on Mallek’s recommendation and adopted the fireshed approach in the Firewise upscale plan they are currently working on. Mr. Mallek who is sought to come back for a new assignment to further his work is still remotely replying on technical questions that LRI team is raising.

Heidi Lammers, Jerry Heaps and Anthony Vojta

Quality managers on assignment for Farmer-to-Farmer

Assignment Overview

Date: August 2015

Volunteers: Heidi Lammers, Jerry Heaps and Anthony Vojta, all senior quality managers with the Land O'Lakes Quality team

Volunteers Interview:

Welcome back to the United States! What was the structure of your two-week Farmer-to-Farmer assignment?

  • Heidi: The first week we facilitated a Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) training for 20 students enrolled at the American University of Beirut. We had a mix of undergrad and grad students. HACCP, a management system to address food safety, is a third-party course with 11 modules, which lasted the entire week. Though slightly modified, the course is mostly the same training we give at Land O'Lakes twice a year.
  • Jerry: The second week, Anthony and I took a one-hour bus ride with the students to two food processing plants, about an hour outside of Beirut, Lebanon. These visits were a lot of fun, and a very useful learning experience for all of us, because we were able to see some of the HACCP course learnings in a practical setting.

The first processing plant you visited was for cheese. What was it like?

  • Anthony: I'm what some would call a "cheese-head", so this was my favorite stop. The cheese they make is called halloumi–it's soft, non-cultured, very fresh cheese, made of sheep and goat's milk. Almost like a very bland mozzarella. They coagulate the milk and strain off the whey, then end up boiling the cheese curd back into the whey–a very uncommon process in the United States. There are hundreds of types of cheese in the world, so to see something unique to their culture was very cool. Even though there was a language barrier with the plant owner, we could communicate with the "cheese-making language." It was a unique bonding experience.
  • Jerry: In terms of preparation, they typically roll the cheese up in Lebanese bread (similar to a pita) and put it on a griddle to make the cheese melty and stretchy. Then they dress it up with herbs to give it some flavor. The plant has been operating for many years, and they use grandma's unwritten cheese recipe.

Sounds like you met some interesting people!

  • Jerry: Yes, the people were very warm and hospitable everywhere we went. Actually, Anthony and I both had our birthdays during the trip–the group surprised us with cake and birthday songs. It was very nice of them to do that for us, and so unexpected.

What a memorable birthday! Let's talk a bit about the tahini paste plant. But first, what exactly is tahini paste?

  • Heidi: Tahini paste is made from sesame seeds. The paste is used on hors d'oeuvres and is a main ingredient in hummus.

And what were the highlights of this plant?

  • Jerry: In contrast to the cheese plant, the tahini paste plant had many of their procedures and recipes written down, including HACCP critical control points. This is not to say one way of doing things was better than the other; it was just interesting to note the operational contrast. We made some suggestions on how to improve their safety systems. The owner has been using the same processes for 25 years, so it is difficult to just flip a switch and change behavior. This isn't an exclusive challenge to this plant–it's common in the United States, as well.

What surprised you about this trip as it relates to food quality assurance?

  • Jerry: [What surprised me was] the wide spectrum of food safety laws worldwide. The U.S. has the FDA and USDA to establish and enforce these policies. It's easy to take these entities for granted. Not all countries have this regulatory infrastructure, so it is an uphill battle to standardize.
  • Anthony: To Jerry's point, Lebanon doesn't have a robust food quality regulation, but there appears to be some movement in the this direction. In talking with some of the students, they were hopeful that they will land jobs within the industry as it moves forward in recognizing the value of adopting better quality systems and establishing food safety regulations.

What did you bring back from the experience that will help you in your current job at Land O'Lakes?

  • Heidi: The students asked a lot of questions about how to approach getting increased input from management on quality assurance practices. Land O'Lakes is more mature in our commitment to quality, but we hear those same questions at home. It shows that management's commitment to food safety and quality is critical to success–no matter where you are.
  • Jerry: In the United States and around the world, people come to these HACCP trainings with various levels of food quality knowledge. I learned the importance of breaking down the lessons into basic terms to ensure people are digesting the information. Anthony is very good at doing this!
  • Anthony: Jerry, Heidi and I have diverse quality assurance backgrounds, so as a team we brought a variety of examples to the classroom to help paint the picture for the students. This is important to keep in mind as we facilitate other training programs.

What did you learn about collaborating with the Land O'Lakes International Development team?

  • Jerry: We work well with them. They are great at identifying the needs and being specific about our scope of work.
  • Heidi: Collaborative initiatives like these help me understand what's going on around the world with food, so it's a unique professional opportunity to collaborate with them. Getting a better worldwide perspective helps me understand how the United States and Land O'Lakes fit into the bigger picture. And I now have a better understanding of how diverse the Farmer-to-Farmer assignments are – I used to think they just focused on dairy and crops, but there is more to it than that. We were there for food safety, and when we were leaving, we met another volunteer coming in to provide financial support to a Lebanese agribusiness. The assignments cover every aspect of doing business in agriculture.
  • Anthony: I learned firsthand that as a commercial employee, I can share my expertise as a resource to our International Development projects and make an impact. Just one example, when we first arrived, we toured the plants before the HACCP training. During these tours, we'd made initial suggestions on how to improve some of their processes. Just one week later, the dairy processing plant had already implemented some things we'd talked about. It was rewarding to see that they were so receptive to our suggestions.

The Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program sends U.S.-based volunteers on short-term, international assignments to address the needs of agribusinesses and farmers. Land O'Lakes International Development is currently leading an $8 million F2F program in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, working to improve market access for producers, food processors and exporters, along with ensuring that safe foods reach markets. Since 1987, we've fielded more than 1,300 volunteers–including nearly 150 of our own staff and cooperative members–to 27 countries.

Dr. Renae Moran

Name: Dr. Renae Moran

Current title/profession: Associate Professor of Pomology at the University of Maine

Current hometown: Monmouth, Maine

Areas of expertise: Tree fruit production and physiology


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

Location of the project: Lebanon

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


The apple industry in Lebanon faces major challenges. Most apples were previously exported through Syria to the Gulf countries, but since the Syrian border has closed due to the on-going conflict, the local demand for apples cannot absorb the volume produced, and farmers cannot sell their orchards produce anymore.

Additionally, apples are still being imported into the country through other channels, which domestic apple producers have to compete with. On another level, lack of knowledge about new pruning practices and the best varieties suitable for the climate have been negatively affecting quality and thus reducing demand of the local fruit.

As a result of these factors, and the subsequent reduction in profit, several orchard owners of Mount Lebanon reported to the Agriculture committee of Ehmej municipality that they were considering removing their orchards and selling their land. The committee requested the assistance of an expert in pome fruit from the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Program to work with these fruit tree farmers on improved agricultural practices.

Dr. Renae Moran, an Associate Professor at the University of Maine,  School of Food and Agriculture, visited Lebanon twice. During her two week assignment in October 2015 and her follow-up assignment in January 2016, she taught farmers better pruning techniques that improve both quantity and quality of the fruit and reduce the labor it takes to harvest. While not all the farmers in Ehmej adopted the practices she recommended, those who did have reported a 30 percent increase in quantity.

What’s even more important is that the quality of the apples produced has significantly improved, making them more appealing on the domestic market. The head of the Agriculture committee believes that it is only a matter of time before farmers who had decided to continue with their traditional pruning practices will be convinced by the results and begin using the new techniques.

While the results of Dr. Moran’s pruning techniques have not materialized yet into increased profits, the improvement in quality and quantity and decrease in labor costs for orchard owners has allowed the level of profit to remain steady and convinced several owners (5-10 percent)  who had been planning to sell their orchards to re-consider their decision and keep them in production.

Farmer-to-Farmer Middle East North Africa is implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development and funded by the United States Agency for International Development.

Sequoia Ireland

"I learned that you have family everywhere you go."

Photo by Yaguemar Diop, NCBA CLUSA's Farmer-to-Farmer Program Country Director in Senegal

Profession: Organic Vegetable Specialist

Areas of Expertise: organic farming, sustainable agriculture, swine research, advocacy, teaching

Education: Master of Science from North Carolina A & T State University in Animal Health Sciences


Country: Senegal

Core Implementer: ACDI/VOCA and NCBA CLUSA

Volunteer and Assignment and Impact: In May of 2016, Sequoia, an organic vegetable and animal health specialist, traveled to the Koalack region of Senegal to help four women's vegetable cooperatives further improve their production methods. Sequoia helped the women decide which vegetables to grow including how to use complementary vegetables, crop rotation, inter-cropping, and under-cropping. These complementary vegetables help to ensure nutrient dense soil, prevent evaporation, prevent erosion, and keep pests under control. She also helped the women learn how to test soil fertility with baking soda and vinegar, products easily obtained at their local market. Sequoia also taught the women about water management, the soil food web, energy transfers, mulching, record keeping, and much more. 

Community members had a very positive response to learning that Sequoia was volunteering her time and expertise to help them, which contributed to the wonderful relationships Sequoia developed with the women she worked with. 

Dr. Mushtaq Memon

 Mushtaq has 30 plus years of experience in veterinary medicine and education, specializing in livestock  reproductive health, disease diagnosis, treatment and disease control/ prevention. He teaches at Washington State University where he was instrumental in starting the International Veterinary Education program. In addition, Mushtaq has 25 years of veterinary teaching and designing university curriculum and courses around the world.


Profession: Associate Professor, Global Animal Health Pathway Coordinator at Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health

Home State: Washington, U.S.

Career Summary: A volunteer for ACDI/VOCA since 2001, Mushtaq has 30 plus years of experience in veterinary medicine and education. He specializes in livestock reproductive health, disease diagnosis, treatment and disease control/ prevention. He also teaches at Washington State University where he was instrumental in starting the International Veterinary Education program. In addition, Mushtaq has 25 years of veterinary teaching and designing university curriculum and courses around the world.

Area(s) of Expertise: Veterinary medicine and education, livestock reproductive health, disease diagnosis, treatment and disease control/prevention


Name of project: ACDI/VOCA Lebanon

Country: Lebanon

Implementing Partner: ACDI/VOCA

Objective: To help organizations understand prevailing endemic livestock diseases and improve livestock veterinary practices.

Volunteer Assignment and Impact: Lebanon has experienced a deterioration of animal health and high mortality rates due a lack of knowledge about disease and vaccination, the sporadic availability of vaccines, and a lack of effective diagnostic veterinary laboratories or affordable services. To help address these issues and ultimately improve animal health, Dr. Mushtaq Memon visited dairy cooperatives and a private veterinary services company to impart knowledge and improve their practices, while also working to improve the education of and opportunities for Lebanese veterinary students. 

During Mushtaq’s first assignment in Lebanon, he visited a dairy cooperative and demonstrated the value of keeping individual records for every cow in order to manage disease and revenue. His second assignment entailed working with a private veterinary services company. During his time with the company he proposed establishing a frozen semen facility and heifer replacement business to control breeding costs and provide an additional source of income. One year later, guided by his recommendations, the private company, Lebanon University (LU) and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization are working to create the facility. During his third assignment he worked with various stakeholders to address the shortage of Lebanese veterinarians. First, he worked with Lebanon University to guide the expansion of their small veterinary curriculum, including recommendations to allow students to gain more practical experience. As a former Fulbright Fellowship recipient, Mushtaq In addition, he also initiated discussions between the U.S. Embassy and LU to facilitate an agreement, and also approached an education and scholarship organization about providing opportunities for students and instructors to apply for veterinary education masters degrees at U.S. universities.

Over the last three years, Dr. Mushtaq Memon has helped Lebanon make incredible strides towards improved veterinary services, including preparing the next generation of veterinarians.

Wendy Sealey

Volunteer Expert Helps Congolese to Double Fish Farming Yield

Wendy Sealey at Pierre Kawita fish pond at the harvesting, May 2015

Profession: Physiologist, US Fish and Wildlife Service

Current Hometown: Bozeman, MT

Areas of Expertise: Fish farming

Education: PhD from Texas A&M


Name of project:  Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) in DRC, Training on Fish Feed and Nutrition

Location of the project:  Mbankana, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Duration of the assignment:  Three weeks

Organization that sent the volunteer:  ACDI/VOCA

Core Implementer of this project on behalf of USAID:  ACDI/VOCA


The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is one of the most challenging places served by the USAID-supported Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program. Millions of Congolese men, women, and children face extreme food insecurity due to years of war and corruption. Fish farming, or aquaculture, has the potential to help Congolese people add much-needed protein and nutrients to their diets.  

Fish farming was introduced to the western DRC town of Mbankana in the early 1980s. For years, farmers with minimal skill and knowledge of fish farming practiced it on a subsistence basis. Thanks to technical training in fish pond fertilization provided to the farmers by local NGO Centre d’Appui au Développement Intégral de Mbankana (CADIM) in 1996, fish production in the area increased from about 300 kg per hectare at harvest to about 700 kg per hectare. Fertilizing a fish pond nourishes the phytoplankton, zooplankton, and planktonic algae that fish eat. The pond yields of the older farmers who were trained by CADIM in fertilization exceeded those of younger farmers who didn’t receive training. These discrepancies prompted the young farmers to falsely accuse the older farmers of using witchcraft to stifle the growth of the younger farmers’ fish ponds. 

In 2015, CADIM requested Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer assistance for two Mbankana-based fish farmer associations: the Association Nzakimwena and the Association Federation des Exploitants du Système d’Interdépendance Complémentaire. In May 2015, F2F volunteer Wendy Sealey, a fish physiologist from Montana, provided training on fish feed and nutrition. During the training, Ms. Sealey explained the impact that feed and nutrition have on fish growth, disease, and production, including the negative consequences of poor feed and nutrition. 

Through the volunteer-led training, the young farmers learned that the poor performance of their ponds was not caused by witchcraft, but was due to the absence of well-balanced feed and good nutrition. Since the training, young fish farmers no longer accuse the older farmers of witchcraft, and all farmers now understand the role of feed and nutrition in fish production. The farmers are working together to conduct a trial with feed they produced from local ingredients. They will review the results in September 2016 when they harvest the pond.  

Thanks to F2F volunteer Ms. Sealey and their own efforts, Congolese farmers like Pierre Kawita and Michel Nzamba are raising bigger, healthier, more nutritious fish. Their muddy ponds are investments in DRC’s future. 

Anais Troadec

"…we worked together to identify strengths, to learn to communicate equally (as women and men) in a Muslim society, and to identify and address different gender stereotypes and biases.”


Career Summary: Over the past eight years, Anais has completed 15 assignments through Winrock International in Africa and Asia and has focused on gender and organizational development. She says of her experience, “What has always been amazing in every culture is to see the internal fortitude of women. Together, they have strength and are able to overcome some very challenging circumstances.” 

Area(s) of Expertise: Gender and organizational development Education:

Languages Spoken: English


Volunteer Assignment and Impact: In 2013, Anais traveled to Ethiopia and completed her third trip to Guinea. In Ethiopia, she led workshops for 90 members of three women’s cooperatives to build their skills and improve income generation. Government representatives and service providers were invited to participate in the workshops, so groups were a mix of men and women, which ultimately improved the participants’ experience:“…we worked together to identify strengths, to learn to communicate equally (as women and men) in a Muslim society, and to identify and address different gender stereotypes and biases.” All participants were expected to replicate elements of the training, like women’s roles in agriculture, cooperative member roles, responsibilities and leadership, business plan development, marketing and gender equality. Since the training, cooperatives have implemented improved business practices and are regularly discussing gender issues. In addition, an increase in female participant’s incomes now make it possible for the women to afford an education for their girls and cover a greater share of their household health, food and clothing expenses.

In Guinea, Anais worked with students and faculty from the Agricultural College in Faranah to help mainstream gender within the institution. The Farmer-to-Farmer program currently works with the college and is transforming the institution into a Center of Excellence by, among other things, improving gender parity of faculty and students and updating the curriculum to ensure it is responsive to gender and labor market conditions. Anais participated in an assessment of these areas and led a planning workshop to mainstream gender. After returning home, she spoke at a meeting of the American Association of University Women in Hot Springs, Arkansas about the culture, traditions, women’s issues, and school in the small village of Nialya, Guinea. She inspired the group to donate more than USD $1,400 for school benches and uniforms, especially for girls, so more children in Nialya can attend school.