Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Brings Business Support to Farmers in Kenya

By Donna Rosa, Volunteer for the Farmer-to-Farmer (FTF) Program 

Donna Rosa, with the Huruma Women’s Group in Kibwezi, Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Donna Rosa.)

Donna Rosa, with the Huruma Women’s Group in Kibwezi, Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Donna Rosa.)

The Farmer-to-Farmer Program is well known for providing technical assistance to small farms in developing countries, but did you know that the program also contributes much-needed business support to agribusinesses and small food enterprises?  After all, farms are businesses.

I recently returned from a volunteer assignment in Kenya where I helped a women’s community group with a complete business evaluation, business plan, financial tracking, business development, and business advisory services. I was sent by CRS under USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer Program. This program sends U.S. volunteers to developing countries to assist small farms, agribusinesses, cooperatives, and food processors.  Volunteers are selected for specific skills, and they work hands-on in the field for 2-4 weeks. Expenses are covered by the program. Group training is often involved, but work with individual businesses is also typical.

While much of the Farmer-to-Farmer work involves horticulture support, there are assignments that call for small business support and training.  My experience in Kenya is an example. It illustrates how one person can make a difference. I feel strongly that there is not enough individualized business support for small enterprises in developing countries, particularly at the base of the pyramid.

I worked with the Huruma Women’s Group in Kibwezi.  This remarkable group of 30 women (and one man!) understands that if they want to improve their lives, they must take action to help themselves.  They formed a community group after seeking and receiving local training in crop irrigation.  In addition to providing ongoing social services for the community, they also took advantage of training in basic commercial food preparation and processing.  Importantly, they came to understand the concept of adding value.

Along the way they entered and won a contest by collecting the detergent packages. But instead of splitting the 250,000 Kenyan Shillings (about 3,000 USD) winnings among the group, they used it to purchase milling equipment in order to generate ongoing income. Pretty smart and a flicker of business acumen.

Huruma began by offering milling services to individuals and schools in the community, and later opened a small retail store where they sell flours, flour blends, crafts, dried fruits and vegetables, and snacks. The group members are poor, illiterate and lacking in business skills (especially record keeping).  They required help with their day-today business, but also needed a business plan to provide a roadmap.

Inside the Huruma Women’s Group retail shop in Kibwezi, Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Donna Rosa.)

Inside the Huruma Women’s Group retail shop in Kibwezi, Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Donna Rosa.)

That’s where I came in.

What was the experience like? The area was rural and very poor.  I stayed in a local guest house where the accommodations were basic, but the staff couldn’t have been nicer. Internet access was manageable but spotty and slow, and there were several power and water outages.

I met with the group several times under a towering fig tree, with occasional visits from cows, goats, chickens, and baboons. Only one member, Rahema Madega, spoke English. I also met with the group’s stakeholders, including local government officials, USAID, customers, suppliers, and other women’s groups. I used afternoons, evenings, and weekends to work on the business plan, financial templates, analysis, final report and presentation for CRS in Nairobi.

I asked a lot of questions, but the poor record keeping made it difficult to get an accurate picture of the financial status. They did not have a handle on either income or expenses. Still, I was able to make recommendations. For example, Rahema was managing the entire enterprise herself, and this is not sustainable. We outlined a management team structure in order to split the work, but there will be challenges to find people with the requisite skills.

The milling operation was losing money due to constant equipment breakdowns, but they had taken steps to purchase new equipment and locate better manufacturing and retail facilities from the county government so they might eventually become a certified food processing plant. Huruma also had a solar drying facility donated by USAID that was completely underutilized, so we explored other fruits and vegetables that they could dry and sell at low manufacturing cost but good profit margins. In addition we identified marketing tools, promotion ideas, and new value-added products that they could add longer term. They now have a plan to use as a guide for growth and importantly, to obtain financing.

This type of volunteer work is ideal if you enjoy hands-on international development experience and learning about a culture by living it. It is also great for building experience for a career or job change, if you can block the time to do it. Each assignment is unique, and the challenge is exceedingly gratifying.

For more information on the Farmer-to-Farmer Program click here.


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.

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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.

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“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. (more…)


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. (more…)


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.

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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.

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U.S. Farmers Volunteer to Assist Ugandan Farmers

KAMPALA- U.S. Mission Uganda today announced a program that connects farmers in the United States with their counterparts around the world for training and technical assistance. U.S. Mission Uganda, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), will place 125 American volunteer farmers with projects that assist local farmers in Uganda. The projects under consideration are maize and oil seed crops such as ground nuts, sunflower, and sesame value chains.

Farmer-to-Farmer is 28-year-old flagship USAID program that transforms agricultural sector development through volunteer assistance targeted at small farmers, agribusinesses and associations, and support services enterprises.  This is the first time CRS is partnering with the Farmer-to-Farmer Program. This partnership is a five-year program to include nearly 500 volunteer assignments in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda.

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Farmer-to-Farmer: Ohio Ag Connection

The Ohio Ag Connection highlights American Agri-Women’s first international support effort in partnership with CRS’Farmer-to-Farmer program in the article below:
http://www.ohioagconnection.com/story-national.php?Id=164&yr=2014

CRS Farmer-to-Farmer Program Sends Volunteers to East Africa

Catholic Relief Services has joined a program that connects farmers in the United States with their counterparts around the world for training and technical assistance. The CRS project will focus on East Africa.

“The program will use the expertise of U.S. Catholics and non-Catholics to help the impoverished communities we serve in this part of Africa,” said Bruce White, director for the program.

Plans call for almost 500 project assignments over the five-year life of the program, focusing on agriculture, food security and nutrition in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.

This is the first time CRS has been involved in the 28-year-old Farmer-to-Farmer Program funded by the U.S. government.

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