Name: Bob Shumaker
Current title/profession: Vegetable and livestock farmer, President of the Alaska Farmers Union
Current hometown: Alaska
Areas of expertise: Farming, business development
Location of the projects: Senegal, Zambia
Organization that sent the volunteer: NCBA CLUSA
Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Bob Shumaker recently completed his fourth F2F assignment, leading trainings for women farmers in Senegal. Bob, the president of the Alaska Farmers Union, has raised livestock for over 20 years and farmed vegetables for more than 15 years. Bob and his wife, Yasinta, completed separate volunteer assignments with the Groupement de Promotion Féminine (GPF) in the Matam region of Senegal. Yasinta trained women from GPF Soubalo II—a group of 110 women who process local cereals—in business skills to increase their revenues from millet. Training included financial literacy, recordkeeping, business plan development and communication and investment strategies. Bob worked with GPF Gandé II, a group of 44 women who process and sell millet, sorghum, corn, sweet potatoes and beans. The women struggle to earn profits from this endeavor and have cited market access as the main obstacle, so Bob provided training in marketing and techniques to help them increase sales and grow the profile of their businesses.
Bob’s previous three F2F assignments had all been in Zambia. He first began work there with the Chipata District Farmers Association (CDFA) in 2012, with a training on vegetable production. He returned soon after and helped establish a cooperative based on the seven international co-op principles. He returned once again in October 2015 to share his expertise in soil testing, management and fertilization for peanuts - including blended fertilizer demonstrations for CDFA farmers. He also checked in on the cooperative he helped to form years ago, meeting with cooperative leaders and discussing management issues.
Bob first heard about the Farmer-to-Farmer program through his membership in the National Farmers Union – one of NCBA CLUSA’s member organizations. After his first trip, he was hooked.
“It is the real thing. Hands on, hit the ground running, and finish with a sense of accomplishment! I can tell you I miss them and will be happy to again be working towards a common goal,” said Shumaker. “I go back because we make a difference.” The two- to three-week Farmer-to-Farmer assignments are requested by organizations on the ground and are fully funded through the project; volunteers simply bring their expertise to groups who have a specific need.
“It is an awesome adventure. You learn about people, a different place and life,” Bob said.
This article was edited from two original articles written and published by NCBA CLUSA, which you can find here and here.