God’s Fields Are Never Fallow

Dear Friend,

There is no time like these fall months to appreciate the magnificent generosity of God. The fields that were a few weeks ago filled with plants that were reaching for the sky, full of grain and corn and beans and all sort of other crops have yielded their bounty. The branches of trees in orchards’ tidy rows that were dipping toward the ground as they tried to support the burden of their heavy fruits have done the same.

In so many ways, the earth lets us know once again that its promise has been fulfilled as God intended.

With those fields harvested and those orchards picked, their abundance is now available to us, whether in farm markets or roadside stands or at your local supermarket. This is the time of year when we can see and smell and taste how good God is to us. There is no doubt.

But when we think of the fruits of the harvest, let us not limit ourselves to this familiar yearly cycle. There are many seeds that are planted which do not bear their fruit according to that calendar. Some take years to mature.

Read the rest of this entry »


Learning Support and Solidarity During Crises

Dear Friend,

As our children go back to school this month, it’s a good time to educate ourselves about a world in need.

Everywhere, people are crying out for help. Together we show them God’s care and grace. As children open their new textbooks, I urge you to read and learn about how you can build solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters overseas. The Gospel asks us to hear their cries, and to respond to them, because no matter where people live, they are our neighbors. When we help them, we become God’s helping hands.

In Iraq, adherents to minority religions—including Christian faiths that have been there since Christianity began—have been uprooted by militant fighters. People are fleeing their homes to escape persecution, violence and death. Their future, and that of the entire region, is precarious.

Read the rest of this entry »


Web Chat: Addressing the Humanitarian Emergency of Unaccompanied Children

Please join Catholic Relief Services and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for an online Catholics Confront Global Poverty discussion:

Addressing the Humanitarian Emergency of Unaccompanied Children

July 29, 2014

12 -1 P.M. EDT

Live Blog Addressing the Humanitarian Emergency of Unaccompanied Children
 

Background:  Our country is witnessing the results of a drug war and intensifying gang control: child refugees. The number of unaccompanied children fleeing their home countries has alarmingly increased – numbers arriving to the U.S. have doubled every year since 2011, creating what Pope Francis has described as a “humanitarian emergency.”

Increasing despair has led many families, youth and children to the inevitable conclusion that they have no choice but to flee. They are primarily fleeing violence. They aren’t just coming to the United States; in fact, other Central American countries have experienced a sharp increase in asylum claims in recent years as well.

Join us for:

  • A discussion about the Church’s ongoing work to protect and care for these children before, during and after their journeys, and address the root causes of why they are leaving their homes;
  • An opportunity to learn how you can take action on this issue now and during the upcoming Congressional Recess from August 4 – September 5, 2014; and,
  • A chance to ask questions and engage in dialogue with experts on this issue.

 


Disasters Threaten South Sudan, Central African Republic

Dear Friend,
Responding to emergencies is one of the most important jobs we have at Catholic Relief Services. Many are high-profile events covered extensively in the media, like the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the earthquake in Haiti or Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. But many are events you’ve likely never heard of—local flooding or storms or violence just as devastating as the ones that draw widespread attention.

Working with our local partners around the world—often Caritas and other Church organizations—CRS spreads the bounty of your generosity to those forced from their homes or in need of food, water and other necessities through no fault of their own.

The spotlight usually falls on disasters that happen suddenly—like an earthquake or a typhoon. The suddenness is part of the story, part of the drama, part of what makes it so compelling to news organizations and to viewers and readers.

What often receives far less attention, though, are what we call slow-onset emergencies. They don’t strike all at once like disasters that make the ground shake or the waters rise or the wind blow. But they are just as devastating.

I want to call your attention to two coming disasters. Both are man-made—caused by escalating conflict.

Read the rest of this entry »


Making a Difference

By Lisa M. Campion

Editor’s Note: This article is a contribution to a week-long blog carnival on USAID’s John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program. From July 14-18, F2F program partners and American volunteers are sharing their knowledge and experience of providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. This blog carnival aims to capture and share this program experience. You can find all contributions on Agrilinks.

“What did you learn?”

Members of the Barr Orphans, Widowers, and Widows Cooperative Society (BOWW) in their store during a training session led by Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Lisa Campion. Copyright Lisa Campion 2014, used with permission.

Members of the Barr Orphans, Widowers, and Widows Cooperative Society (BOWW) in their store during a training session led by Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Lisa Campion. Copyright Lisa Campion 2014, used with permission.

This question was a main question I asked on a daily basis. Every day for 11 days, I worked with the Barr Orphans, Widowers, and Widows (BOWW) Cooperative Society to build their capacity in leadership and management training. Over 11 days, I trained almost 500 people, of which 350 were women, as a volunteer for the USAID Farmer to Farmer program. BOWW is located in the Lira District of Uganda Africa.

So what did BOWW learn?
“I learned not to be lazy and to work in my garden. That I am now part of a group and need to contribute.” Said one women in a session (Note: This was translated for me. A “garden” is their farm field). After attending a session and being educated about what a cooperative is, what the roles and responsibilities are of members, the board, the officers and the manager, and learning about how to be a leader in their homes, community and cooperative, this woman along with others learned the important lesson that if you want to be successful, you need to work hard towards your goals. The day after this session, I saw this woman everyday working in her garden tirelessly weeding and planting.

Read the rest of this entry »


20 Years, 11 Countries: Q&A with Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Tom Cadwallader

Editor’s Note: This article is a contribution to a week-long blog carnival on USAID’s John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program. From July 14-18, F2F program partners and American volunteers are sharing their knowledge and experience of providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. This blog carnival aims to capture and share this program experience. You can find all contributions on Agrilinks.

Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Tom Cadwallader poses for a picture with members of the Kitui Development Centre (KDC) in Kenya. Tom conducted a month-long assignment to build the capacity of the KDC by designing effective data collection tools and monitoring systems to ensure efficient poultry project management. Copyright Thomas Cadwallader, 2014

Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Tom Cadwallader poses for a picture with members of the Kitui Development Centre (KDC) in Kenya. Tom conducted a month-long assignment to build the capacity of the KDC by designing effective data collection tools and monitoring systems to ensure efficient poultry project management. Copyright Thomas Cadwallader, 2014

Thomas Cadwallader is a seasoned Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer, having volunteered in over 20 countries around the world. This spring, he traveled to Kenya to work with the Kitui Development Centre. Read on to hear about his experiences in the field and the impact he made.

CRS: Tell us a little bit about your relationship with the Farmer-to-Farmer program?

Tom: In 2013 I celebrated 20 years of assignments through the Farmer-To-Farmer program. I was approached for my first assignment by a good friend who had taken the job of VOCA Country Director in Macedonia. My friend knew that I came from a fairly diverse farming background that provided me with lots of experience in everything from commercial production to direct marketing so I he thought I could draw from those experiences to customize the assignment as needed once I got on the ground.

After meeting with the brothers, I found that they had lots of great things going on and I was able to finish my assignment early. That allowed me the opportunity to take on another assignment in Slovakia with a gentleman who was putting a business plan together for a dairy goat operation. I was hooked. Although my career with the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service and helping my wife run our own farm were keeping me plenty busy, whenever I saw an opportunity to work on an interesting project and I could carve time out of my schedule I jumped on the chance. Over those 20 years, I’ve worked on about 25 individual assignments in 11 different countries around the globe; from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia to the rain forest of Guyana.

Read the rest of this entry »


“The Changes Were Momentous”

By Jessica Sawadogo

Editor’s Note: This article is a contribution to a week-long blog carnival on USAID’s John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program. From July 14-18, F2F program partners and American volunteers are sharing their knowledge and experience of providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. This blog carnival aims to capture and share this program experience. You can find all contributions on Agrilinks.

Dr. Hans Kandel trains villagers about dry bean nodulation.  Copyright Hans Kandel, 2014.  Used with permission.

Dr. Hans Kandel trains villagers about dry bean nodulation. Copyright Hans Kandel, 2014. Used with permission.

Hans Kandel, an extension agronomist from North Dakota State University, recently traveled to Wolayta, Ethiopia to share his technical skills and expertise with local farmers. Kandel collaborated with host organization Sodo Catholic Secretariat (SCS) to work with smallholding farmers who primarily cultivate maize, wheat and dry beans.

The gains crops sector is the most important component of agriculture and food security in Ethiopia. Maize, teff, sorghum and wheat are the most widely cultivated grains—but lack of knowledge related to various farming techniques has seriously hurt the farmers’ ability to produce high yields of crops and sustain their livelihoods. Read the rest of this entry »


A Glimpse at a Typical First Week in the Life of a Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer: A Personal Diary

By Jill Motschenbacher

Editor’s Note: This article is a contribution to a week-long blog carnival on USAID’s John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program. From July 14-18, F2F program partners and American volunteers are sharing their knowledge and experience of providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. This blog carnival aims to capture and share this program experience. You can find all contributions on Agrilinks.

Location: Iganga, Uganda
Date: May 4–25, 2014
Assignment: Training and Field Demonstrations, Preventing Post-Harvest Grain Loss, Improving Grain Handling and Storage, Soil Management and Sampling

Day 1: Monday

Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Jill Motschenbacher, 35, instructs farmers on how test soil.  Ric Francis for CRS

Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Jill Motschenbacher, 35, instructs farmers on how test soil. Ric Francis for CRS

I arrived in Uganda at around 11 pm last night. I got delivered by a great driver (Michael) from the hotel; we drove an hour from Entebbe to the Kampala hotel and then I got settled in my room. I also got a welcoming folder that gaves me all information I might need about Uganda, including safety measures, geographic information, and a schedule. I found this very informative and it is comforting knowing all of this information. I ordered some dinner, took a shower, and fell asleep. I was exhausted after the 30 hours of travel, yet, the travel was good because I scored an extra empty seat beside me on the 8-hour plane ride from Brussels to Entebbe! That is like winning the lottery.

I woke up this morning to rain on the window. Hello, monsoon season! I worked at the CRS offices for a couple of hours, and then headed off to Iganga. The staff at CRS was very welcoming and they have everything organized. I am lucky, because my bags arrived with me!

I’m at my hotel in Iganga (Mum Resort) now. It was a long drive to Iganga, but the scenery was very beautiful once we got out to the agricultural areas. The city had a lot of traffic “jams”, which means a lot of exhaust fumes. In the country area, there are lots of sugarcane crops, tea crops, and green forests. Everything is green here! The warm air feels good after spending a long winter in Fargo, North Dakota this year. Having 85 degrees F is a lot warmer than -40 degrees F. Tonight, I went to dinner with the CRS people that drove me here, so I got to check out the town. It feels like being in a movie. There is so much to look at. Read the rest of this entry »


A Day in the Life of a Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer

Velma Gwishiri, Leadership Skills and Management Training for the Namubuka Grains Area Cooperative Enterprise

Editor’s Note: This article is a contribution to a week-long blog carnival on USAID’s John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program. From July 14-18, F2F program partners and American volunteers are sharing their knowledge and experience of providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. This blog carnival aims to capture and share this program experience. You can find all contributions on Agrilinks.

Ric Francis for CRS

Ric Francis for CRS

In the spring of 2014, Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Velma Gwishiri led a month-long assignment on leadership skills and management training for the Namubuka Grains Area Cooperative Enterprise (ACE) in Uganda.

Namubuka ACE was formed with the overall objective of improving smallholder farmers’ incomes and livelihoods through improving their productivity and access to competitive markets. Namubuka ACE members are farmers whose main livelihood is derived from maize cultivation on small land parcels with low yields.

Read the rest of this entry »


Catholic Relief Services: Faith. Action. Results.

Editor’s Note: This article is a contribution to a week-long blog carnival on USAID’s John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program. From July 14-18, F2F program partners and American volunteers are sharing their knowledge and experience of providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. This blog carnival aims to capture and share this program experience. You can find all contributions on Agrilinks.

At a glance:

CRS staffer Ross Tomlinson, in tan CRS vest, hands out plastic tarps at a CRS and Caritas Norway distribution of 700 emergency shelters in the town of Palo, on the east side of the island of Leyte in central Philippines. Along with the tarps, families receive nails, a hammer and rope, and each group of 10 families also receives additional tools: two handsaws, a shovel, a crowbar, a digging bar and measuring tape. Palo and the surrounding area were struck by Typhoon Haiyan on November 8, 2013. It is considered the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Jim Stipe/CRS

CRS staffer Ross Tomlinson hands out plastic tarps at a CRS and Caritas Norway distribution of 700 emergency shelters in central Philippines. The area was struck by Typhoon Haiyan on November 8, 2013. Jim Stipe/CRS

Catholic Relief Services was founded in 1943 to feed European refugees during WWII. Now, CRS works in 93 countries around the world. CRS currently implements Farmer-to-Farmer projects in its core countries in East Africa: Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Where did CRS come from?

CRS was originally founded by the Catholic Bishops of the United States to serve World War II survivors in Europe. Today, CRS has expanded to reach almost 100 million people in 93 countries on five continents. As part of the Universal Church, CRS works with local Catholic institutions around the world, but also participates in development and humanitarian initiatives undertaken by a wide range of groups, including governments, other faith communities, and secular institutions.

Read the rest of this entry »