Agrilinks Blog Carnival: A Day in the Life of a F2F Volunteer
By April Hemmes, F2F volunteer, farmer from North Central Iowa
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 shared 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. You can find all contributions on Agrilinks.
It is so difficult to pick one picture that tells the tale of my experience as a volunteer for the Farmer to Farmer program through Iowa State University’s project titled “Bridging the Gap: increasing the Competitiveness of Ugandan Women in the Marketplace.” However, I always call the one above the “Farmer to Farmer photo”. It clearly shows how they welcomed us onto their farms and into their lives.
There was never a “typical” day when working on a Farmer-to-Farmer project. That is what makes volunteering so fun! Each day started at about 6 am when we talked about our day ahead over breakfast then take off for the day. We would usually get back around supper time and work until 10 pm on the information we collected through the day. Some of our trips to the farms took over an hour to get there and we traveled only 10 miles or less. We often met with three groups of farmers each day. Our group meetings with the 10 to 20 farmers took place outside or in open mud grass huts, called a hadeja. We discussed ways to improve post-harvest grain quality, record keeping, collective group marketing and improve soybean production.
To accomplish our goal to improve the post-harvest quality of their maize, our F2F project gave each group a bicycle-operated corn sheller.
This simple device greatly improved grain quality so that they increased the storage life of their corn from a few weeks to up to six months! This enabled the women to sell their grain at a higher price, increasing money available for the family. I will never forget meeting Faith, the woman on the bike. She ran up to us in the local market and said “Because of this program I have more crops to feed my family and to take to market so I can send my children to school!” When you see that kind of thankfulness it makes all of my time worthwhile.
Bridging the Gap was a great way for women to connect with women from around the world and passing this along to their children. While leaving a meeting, a woman came up and hugged me and said “April, I want to farm like you do, I want to raise as many soybeans as you do for my family” I said “I hope you can some day!” It is truly inspirational to know that F2F efforts give these women a goal to strive for.
I felt I could relate to the Ugandan women. Even though I farm on a different scale, farming is all about growing a crop, no matter the scale. The Ugandan people were fantastic and very grateful for all that has been done for them through this project. It truly has helped the farm women and made a difference in their families’ lives. I was proud to be a part of this trip and would go back again, if asked. I believe there is much more to be shared with the women and much more to learn from each other.
As aligned with Feed the Future, the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative, F2F works to support inclusive agriculture sector growth, facilitate private sector engagement in the agriculture sector, enhance development of local capacity and promote climate-smart development. Volunteer assignments address host-led priorities to expand economic growth that increases incomes and improves access to nutritious food. Read more articles on this topic on Agrilinks. Also, make sure to subscribe to receive a daily digest in your inbox, for one week only!