Saturday, July 9, 2011

Farmer-to-Farmer Program: Introduction

A long time ago and in a city thousands of miles away... One of my professors at N.C. State related some of her work in class with berry growers in Latin America. Keen to mix my interest in agriculture and love of travel, I asked her how I could get involved in similar work. She revealed it had been as a volunteer with USAID's (U.S. Agency for International Development) Farmer-to-Farmer program.

Farmer-to-Farmer (or FTF) is not your average volunteering program and definitely not agri-tourism. A volunteer will spend upwards of two weeks in a developing country working on a specific project which has been identified to strengthen the local agriculture. The projects can be anywhere along the value chain from growers/production to post-harvest processing to the business side in finance or strategic planning.

I duly filled out profiles with the organizations who coordinate FTF - different ones for different parts of the world - and submitted my application to various postings. It never worked for me. I should mention that FTF is more targeted in that volunteers have years of experience so they can confidently consult on, say, "Vegetable Oil Expeller Design and Construction" or "Market Development and Promotion of Soy Products" - real assignments if you know anyone! Likely, being fresh out of grad school wasn't enough to make the cut.

With a few years under my belt, and the looming luxury of a European summer vacation allowance, I started trying again. Incredibly, CNFA - who coordinates FTF in Southern Africa- was looking for a Seed Lab Specialist! This, of course, was just the nice niche of agriculture I was working in previously, and therefore, a fantastic opportunity to transfer some of that knowledge. I applied and was accepted, got poked and prodded by the doctor, filled out the requisite paperwork, and tried in vain to assuage some of my parents' fears (Rich is 100% supportive as always... and Pepper doesn't know any better). I will be here nearly 3 weeks, and you can follow me in this ongoing series from my assignment in Mozambique.

To learn more about the Farmer-to-Farmer program, visit the USAID and CNFA websites:

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