Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteers Speak on Capitol Hill

On October 26, 2017, four F2F volunteers shared their experiences at two educational briefings on F2F for congressional staff on Capitol Hill.

The Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program promotes sustainable economic growth, food security and agricultural development worldwide. Volunteer technical assistance from US farmers, agribusinesses, cooperatives, and universities helps developing countries improve productivity, access new markets, build local capacity, combat climate change and conserve environmental and natural resources. To date, the impressive work of 16,700 F2F volunteers has benefited more than 1.2 million people living in developing countries.

The volunteers that spoke at these briefings to an engaged audience of congressional staff exemplify the high quality technical assistance that F2F provides through volunteer service. Ples Spradley, Carmen Byce, Jim Riddle and Julie Longland are all impressive experts in their fields and spoke about the impact they’ve had improving farming and livelihoods in the developing world by sharing their expertise through volunteer assignments with the F2F program.

With 28 years of experience in pesticide safety, Volunteer Ples Spradley talked about his most recent assignment in Senegal with Winrock International. During his time there, Mr. Spradley customized a training program for Senegalese farmers on pesticide equipment calibration and appropriate practices which included vital hands-on exercises. Mr. Spradley related what he had also shared with Arkansas Business, “Reaching out with farmers and establishing that connection, to me, it’s just the best kind of connection there is. Farmers are farmers no matter where you go, and it just does so much good, not only on the Senegalese end.”

Volunteer Carmen Byce is an agricultural extension and education specialist with an extensive volunteer history with F2F assignments in Ethiopia, Republic of Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyryzstan and Myanmar. Ms. Byce told congressional staffers about her experience working to empower young girls in Ethiopia with Catholic Relief Services. During her time in Ethopia, Ms. Byce provided leadership training to 45 women and children that has allowed them to become strong, confident community leaders but also amazing mentors to all the younger girls in the community. Ms. Byce dove into F2F’s extraordinary capacity to create deep connections saying, “One thing that is truly different is that F2F is truly a people-to-people exchange.”

Panelist Jim Riddle volunteered under Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA)’s Special Program Support Project (SPSP), implemented by the Florida Association for Volunteer Action in the Caribbean and Americas. He and his wife, Joyce Ford, have completed six assignments in Jamaica between the two of them. One major success was Mr. Riddle’s vital contribution to the creation of the Jamaica Organic Growers Group (JOGG) by helping them develop strong record keeping systems and a clear governance structure for collective decision-making.  Mr. Riddle related how he provided organic certification sensitization training to farmers, educators, students and government staff. Mr. Riddle discussed how important the F2F program is since “care of the land and the need for food are universal needs.” Mr. Riddle and Ms. Ford exemplify the spirit of F2F volunteers to go above and beyond their assignments, as the couple has stayed in contact with and continue to support the smallholder farmers they met in Jamaica as they progress toward organic certification.

An expert in agriculture research and product development, Julie Longland has volunteered with F2F in Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Mozambique, Nepal and Senegal. In Senegal with F2F Implementer ACDI/VOCA, Ms. Longland played a crucial role in advising women farmers on monitoring their crops for signs of insect damage and on combating crop loss due to harmful insects. Ms. Longland said of the F2F program, “This was something exciting to be part of. I learn something new every time.” Most of her volunteer assignments have focused on Integrated Pest Management - teaching farmers in developing countries how to adopt safe practices that combine pesticide and non-pesticide methods.

During the briefing the volunteers also discussed how F2F creates value in the U.S. as well as developing countries. As Mr. Spradley said, “My volunteer experience in Senegal has changed the way I do trainings in the US.” Beyond enriching the lives of the participating U.S. volunteers, F2F has proved both a successful and extremely cost-effective tool in promoting development around the world, leveraging over $31 million worth of volunteer time.

The Capitol Hill briefing was sponsored by the seven primary F2F implementing organizations: ACDI/VOCA, Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Land O’Lakes International Development, Partners of the Americas, Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA), and Winrock International. Hanna Abou-El-Seoud, International Trade and Agricultural Development Representative at Gordley Associates, monitored the panel and Q&A sessions.

You can read the other volunteer stories that were highlighted at the briefing here: 

Volunteer Story: Dr. Ashraf Hassan

Volunteer Story: Ian Robinson

This event was not sponsored or funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The event is the responsibility of ACDI/VOCA, CNFA, CRS, Land O’Lakes, Partners of the Americas, VEGA, and Winrock International and does not reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

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