This article was originally written by ACDI/VOCA and published by USAID here.
Name: David Roberts
Current title/profession: State Grazinglands Specialist at USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Current hometown: Marcy, New York
Areas of expertise: Livestock husbandry, pasture management, conservation agronomy
Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (ECCA)
Location of the project: Kyrgyzstan
Organization that sent the volunteer: ACDI/VOCA
May 2017—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, he steadily increased his herd to 40 over the past decade.
Milk production among his dairy cows, however, was consistently low, earning him little profit. Shamyrkanov wasn’t sure how to increase production but knew that something had to change for his family’s sake.
To help Shamyrkanov and other local dairy farmers troubleshoot their milk production problems, David Roberts, a livestock specialist from New York with 42 years of experience, arrived in Kyrgyzstan in July 2016. His two-week assignment was part of USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer program, which sends American farmers and agribusiness professionals to various countries around the world to provide short-term technical assistance in food security and agricultural processing, production and marketing.
“Emil and his family welcomed me and made my stay very comfortable, showing me their culture firsthand,” said Roberts, who stayed with the Shamyrkanov family for eight days.
During his assignment, Roberts toured several farms and a livestock market, and spoke with farmers to better understand the constraints they 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,” he said.
To improve milk production, Roberts offered a series of easy-to-implement suggestions to help Shamyrkanov and his fellow farmers upgrade housing conditions for the cows. They improved ventilation and insulation, expanded the barn and divided it for young and adult animals. He also suggested increasing the amount of protein in the animal feed to improve the health of the cows.
After the visit, Shamyrkanov carried out Roberts’s suggestions and quickly saw results: Cows that were producing 9 liters of milk per day are 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,” said Shamyrkanov, who 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. Roberts continues to stay in touch with Shamyrkanov and is learning Russian to more easily communicate with him.
Since 2013, USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer program has hosted 50 volunteers on 76 assignments in Kyrgyzstan to help local farmers improve production of crops, milk and other products.