While the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program’s primary goal is to generate sustainable, broad-based economic growth in the agricultural sector, its secondary goal is to increase the U.S. public’s understanding of international development issues and programs and international understanding of the U.S. and U.S. development programs. To do so, F2F believes the program’s volunteers must reflect the diversity of the American people. Therefore, the F2F program actively encourages and seeks out diverse individuals to contribute their knowledge and skills on our assignments.
This Black History Month, as the U.S. celebrates the achievements of the Black community and their central role in U.S. history, the F2F Program would like to shine light on the Black men & women who volunteer their time to our F2F program and who simultaneously strengthen the diversity our program aims to achieve. Below are just a few of their success stories:
Written by Winrock International
Dr. Joseph Orban
Dr. Joseph Orban is a Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Sciences at Southern University at Shreveport Louisiana where he teaches Human Anatomy and Physiology, Pharmacology and Nutrition to Biology, Allied Health and Nursing students.
Dr. Orban is actively involved in international development projects and community activities. He has served on many Winrock Farmer-to-Farmer projects as volunteer technical expert on Poultry and Livestock Projects in Nigeria (2002), Bangladesh (2007), and Kenya (2009, 2010). In 2008 Dr. Orban was awarded The President’s Volunteer Service Award by President George Bush for his Volunteer work in Asia and Africa. In 2012, he received another Presidential Volunteer Award from President Barak Obama for his services in Mali (2011) and Ethiopia (2012) where he provided training in the use of chromatography for animal feed ingredient analysis and feed quality control, respectively. In 2013 he again received another Presidential Volunteer Award from President Obama for his service in Ethiopia where he trained Ethiopian livestock farmers on feed formulation and nutritional requirements for swine and dairy cattle, respectively. Dr. Orban is also a recipient of the 2015 Presidential Volunteer Bronze Award from President Obama for his service in Senegal where he developed and established a curriculum for a nine-month Practical Training Module for Poultry Production. The program is designed to train young people in Senegal in poultry production as well as enhance food security and safety and provide jobs in the poultry sector for the people of Senegal. Dr. Orban is currently working on another Farmer-to-Farmer project developing a training program on Project Development and Grant Proposal Writing with the Federal College of Animal Health and Production Technology, National Veterinary Research Institute Vom-Jos Nigeria.
Dr. Orban’s Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Projects Sponsored by Winrock International:
- 2002: The Use of Alternative Raw Materials for Poultry Feed in Nigeria – Raw Material Research Council Abuja, Nigeria
- 2007: Improved Poultry Feed Formulation, Production and Quality Control – BRAC Feed Mill, Dhaka Bangladesh
- 2009: Poultry Feed Formulation and Production Cost Improvement - Great Lakes University of Kisumu, Kenya
- 2010: Curriculum Development for Poultry Science Program – Great Lakes University of Kisumu, Kenya
- 2011: Training of Animal Nutrition Laboratory Staff in Assessing Quality and Safety of Animal Feeds – Sotuba Bamako, Mali
- 2011: Establishing Animal Feeds Standards and Quality Control Among Feed Millers – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
- 2012: Swine and Dairy Feed Formulation and Feeding Techniques Training for Prime Milk PLC Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
- 2015: Development of Curriculum for Practical Training Module on Poultry Production – St Louis, Senegal
- 2021: Training on Project Development and Grant Proposal Writing – Federal College of Animal Health and Production Technology, National Veterinary Research Institute Vom-Jos Nigeria
Dr. Orban training BRAC Feed Mill quality control supervisors on poultry feed formulation in Bangladesh, 2007
Dr. Orban trains Ethiopian Feed Millers on Feed Quality Analysis, 2011
Dr. Orban and Madame Keita Djenebe Konate of Animal Nutrition Lab (IER) working on HPLC pump during instrumentation training in Mali, 2011
Dr. Orban with staff at the Debre Zeit Swine farm in Ethiopia during training on feed formulation and feeding practices, 2012
Dr. Orban with staff during inspection of the Prime Dairy Farm, Ethiopia, 2012
Written by Jennifer Elegbede, a Catholic Relief Services volunteer
While I was in Rwanda recently, an aging rice farmer shared with me the same concern I heard from an older farmer at my church in Charlotte: with their children not interested in farming, both worried about the future of agriculture. While most Americans have lost touch with farm life, agriculture could determine the fate of billions of people around the world. It is critical that policies on the local, state and federal level encourage not only the next generation of farmers, but a new paradigm of agriculture that is both sustainable for the planet and highly productive.
I visited Rwanda as part of the federal Farmer-to-Farmer program. Started in the 1980s by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Farmer-to-Farmer is an international agricultural mentoring system. At the request of host countries, U.S. volunteers provide technical assistance to farmers, agribusinesses, and other agricultural institutions in developing countries. The immediate aim is to promote sustainable improvements in food production, processing and marketing in these poorer countries. The overarching goal is to strengthen countries economically and politically through agriculture, and to increase awareness of international development issues in the U.S.
I’m a food scientist. My expertise is in food product development. I visited for three weeks this spring to counsel the local district government that built a small plant to mill maize. The maize is turned into flour for porridge. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) organized my trip, and paid expenses. It is one of several international organizations that implement the Farmer-to-Farmer program for USAID.
Rwanda is beautiful, especially to a Midwest girl like me accustomed to flat land. It has rolling hills and banana and rice fields. It’s also rural. Every morning I woke up to a wild chorus of tropical birds and chickens welcoming the day. In Rwanda, like many African nations, around 70 percent of working people are employed in agriculture.
Rwanda also is poor. About 44 percent of the country lives below the poverty line. But agriculture presents significant opportunities for economic growth, and greater food security. The demand for maize, for instance, as both a staple and commercial product, is greater than the in-country supply. The soil is eroded, and if improved could produce far higher yields. Post-harvest marketing and other practices also could be dramatically strengthened.
The Rwandan government has taken significant steps to boost farm production and markets, increasing the share of its national budget to agriculture from three percent to 10 percent over the past decade. Assistance also comes from outside sources, both from the private and public sectors. Working with USAID, for instance, the Center for Global Connections in Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University is studying a simple food solution that might also generate income for subsistence farmers throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Asia: the increased growth of chick peas, lentils, and other legumes which have high market and nutritional value. The partnerships are working. Farm production is up in Rwanda, for instance. Economic development has averaged seven percent growth over the past decade. Politics are stable, unlike other parts of Africa.
Unfortunately, America’s participation in this partnership is in jeopardy. The U.S. administration has proposed cutting foreign aid 24 percent in the next budget, including to USAID programs that support Farmer-to-Farmer and the MSU legumes research. I urge Congress to resist those cuts. They would be counterproductive to our interests. Foreign aid helps countries become self-reliant, contribute to the world community, even mitigate climate change. It’s an investment in our planet’s future.
Jennifer Elegbede is a food scientist and a resident of Charlotte.
Written by NCBA CLUSA
Hervé R. Thomas is no stranger to international development with over 15 years of experience as a public and international affairs professional. This polyglot has traversed lands all around the globe in service of humanity; advising NGOs, companies, and intergovernmental agencies. His determination, expertise and benevolence continue to contribute towards a diverse USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer program. Hervé’s in-depth knowledge of strategic planning, program management, leadership, and strategic resource mobilization, as well as his compassion, make him a highly sought-after candidate for Farmer-to-Farmer assignments. In honor of Black History Month, NCBA CLUSA is proud to honor Hervé’s acts of service through the Strategic Planning assignment with Asociación Nacional de Exportadores de Café del Ecuador (ANECAFE) in Ecuador.
ANECAFE was founded in May 1983 and is the oldest coffee trade union in Ecuador. It strives to be at the forefront of Ecuador's coffee exporting sector, supporting the improvement of existing coffee production and achieving national and international recognition. In order to meet these goals, its members recognized that they needed guidance in developing a strategic plan using the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis framework. Hervé worked remotely with ANECAFE from November to December 2020 to advise them on creating a strategic plan best suited for their operations. During these unprecedented times of COVID-19, his flexibility and willingness to complete the assignment virtually were truly appreciated.
Acknowledging the challenges and successes that remote learning can present, Hervé stated, “I thought it would be easier than it was. Monica [NCBA CLUSA Ecuador Field Coordinator] was amazing! A HUGE help. It took quite a bit of creativity since we didn’t have a board to write on, so we used Google Docs. Everyone was really accommodating and onboard, taking full advantage of what we were discussing.”
Hervé presents a summary of the Strategic Planning session to ANECAFE’s members
Throughout the assignment, Hervé made sure that ANECAFE prioritized the strategic planning aspect of the assignment, focusing on values mapping, vision and mission statement development, and strategic goal setting and operationalization. He also ensured that its members had rich technical discussions around potential policy advocacy measures, business strategies, organizational development and generational replacement. All of these activities aligned with his goals of “Delivering on the objectives and assuring that they learned something.” Hervé stated, “Going into this I wanted to make sure that they had ownership and were able to take control of the process.” By the end of the assignment, ANECAFE members were equipped with the knowledge to present their strategic plan to their Board of Directors and key stakeholders. Their enthusiasm for learning about this topic will surely contribute to ANECAFE’s sustainability.
Hervé discusses the Annual Plan with ANECAFE members
To Hervé and the many volunteers like him, NCBA CLUSA Farmer-to-Farmer thanks you for all of the stellar work you do.
Written by ACDI/VOCA
Rose Minor is a seasoned ACDI/VOCA volunteer who has visited Tajikistan four times in the last decade to work with local households on improving homemade canning techniques. She first learned about Tajik canning and cooking methods from her host mother as a Persian language exchange student in 2011. When the global pandemic brought international travel to a halt, Rose volunteered to pair with a local canning expert Nargis Ibrogimova and ACDI/VOCA Project Coordinator Muzaffar Yorazizov to continue providing much needed assistance to Tajik women – virtually.
Rose Minor with Tajik women on a previous F2F assignment
Most canning methods and recipes in the former Soviet Union are passed down from generation to generation but they often do not ensure safe food processing or incorporate recent technologies. In tandem with Nargis and Muzaffar, Rose evaluated the women’s canning methods, pre-recorded videos of new recipes and techniques, and provided a series of recommendations to improve sterilization, prevent botulism, and suggest ways to sell canned products on the local market.
Nargis Ibragimova demonstrating canning techniques
“It was my first time making homemade canning videos and I was excited to share my recipes!” said Rose. “The canning methods I presented are safe and affordable, and it was great to see videos of women canning their products following my recipes. Women contribute greatly to Tajik society, their neighbors, and those in their villages. Knowledge is power, and women should be able to get the tools they need. This experience made me think about conducting more virtual and cooking recipes in the future! I think it’s very important that U.S. volunteers continue to bring tools to women farmers.”