Farmer to Farmer

American Agri-Women partnered with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to join the United States Agency for International Development’s Farmer-to-Farmer program in May of 2014. The program links AAW members with farmers in East African countries, so they can offer agricultural training and technical assistance. The partnership marks AAW’s first international support effort. This has been a great opportunity to share modern agriculture techniques to East African farmers as well as an opportunity for AAW to gain a broader understanding of agriculture in developing countries.

The Farmer to Farmer program, which was authorized in 1985, is funded by the United States Agency for International Development and has been implemented in more than 80 countries since its inception. The program AAW is involved in takes place from 2014-2019 and will offer aid in Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. Other partners in the Farmer-to-Farmer program include the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, Food Resource Bank, National Association of Agricultural Educators and the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

CRS received a grant from the Agency for International Development for the program to identify the communities in Africa and their needs. CRS identifies farmers in these East Africa Regions to assess their needs. They then match these needs with more than 300 U.S. volunteers that will conduct 500 volunteer assignments over a five-year period. CRS conducts a volunteer orientation and manages the logistics for the volunteers who are selected. The volunteers in the program volunteer their time of approximately two to three weeks, depending upon the project. The volunteers will have expenses covered.

Since May of 2014, American Agri-Women has several Farmer to Farmer program volunteers, including the following:

(see 3 photos; Photo 1 – A BOWW member holding her goat that she was able to purchase through the training of previous Farmer to Farmer volunteers. Photo 2 – Two BOWW members listening to the lessons provided by Lisa. Photo 3 – Lisa with the local BOWW children outside of their agricultural warehouse.) In June of 2014, Lisa Campion traveled to Uganda for 21 days as part of the Farmer-to-Farmer Program. 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. She learned that, in order to make a difference in someone’s life, you need to try to experience it for yourself, determine potential solutions, and then work with them to give them the tools they need to succeed. Lisa is also the AAW’s Farmer to Farmer Volunteer Coordinator where see spreads the word about this great program to our members and helps them through the volunteer process.

(see 3 photos; Photo 1 – Lisa with the Mwala SOFDEV members; Photo 2 – Lisa with the Mwala SOFDEV Board of Directors; Photo 3 – Lisa with a local farmer in his mango and bean fields.) In April of 2015, Lisa Campion traveled to Kenya on for two weeks to share her technical skills and expertise with a local farmer group in need of a robust business plan. “After volunteering with Farmer to Farmer in June of 2014, the experience changed my life, when the opportunity to volunteer in Kenya became available, I wanted to give back to others by sharing my knowledge to make a difference in the Mwala community.” In Kenya, she assisted the Mwala Solidarity Fund for Rural Development (SOFDEV), a community-based, financial self-help organization, to develop a five-year strategic plan to achieving their desired growth – membership and profits – as well as the establishment of a their own premises in Mwala town. The 925 member organization, of which 62 percent are women, facilitates access to reliable and affordable financial services to promote self-help initiatives to individual farmers as well as larger groups. A majority of the members are small scale horticulture farmers.

(see 2 photos of Amy; Photo 1 – Amy with local children; Photo 2 – Amy with the Kiboga District Farmer’s Association.) In May of 2015,

Amy Robinette always dreamt of traveling the world, but, as the carefree days of her youth were replaced with farm and family obligations, she felt she had missed her opportunity. However, when she read about American Agri-Women’s partnership with Catholic Relief Services and USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer program, she immediately knew this was her chance! It took almost a year for her to coordinate the travel, but thanks to a very supportive family and a flexible CRS staff, she finally boarded a plane to Uganda on May 1. Her assignment was to spend 22 days working with the Kiboga District Farmer’s Association teaching them about farm-business practices and basic record keeping; however, she must admit that she learned just as much from these amazing people as she taught. Their resilience and work-ethic were inspirational, and it was humbling to see these families achieve so much with so little infrastructure and resources. She left Uganda with a new appreciation for our American government and agriculture and a new passion to make a difference in world. Amy was also the Farmer to Farmer Volunteer Coordinator from May of 2015 to August of 2015 to assist in recruiting volunteers. We truly appreciated Amy’s assistance and coordination.

With these volunteer experiences, AAW hopes that we will continue to have interested members become volunteers of this wonderful international effort to teach others about agriculture. If you want to learn more or become a volunteer, please email aaw@americanagriwomen.org or go to the CRS website at:www.farmertofarmer.crs.org. You may contact CRS directly at farmertofarmer@crs.org, but be sure to mention you are an AAW member.

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