Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Agrilinks Blog Carnival: Our Overall Experience and Lessons Learned from a Farmer-to-Farmer Project

By Linda Naeve, Extension Program Specialist, Value Added Agriculture Program, Iowa State University, and Co-leader of the project.

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.

Speaking for all of the 14 volunteers and 2 leaders who were on our Bridging the Gap, Farmer-to-Farmer team, the opportunity to work with a team of volunteers and dedicated staff from a local NGO on this Farmer-to-Farmer project in Uganda was extremely rewarding and a life-altering experience. We accomplished a lot and believe we made an impact on the lives of many families. We also made many new friends that we will never forget. 

A few of our accomplishments were:

  • By the end of the second project, the women farmers told us they could now store their grain up to five or six months as compared to only one month at the beginning of the project. This gave them more for home consumption and to sell when the price was high.
  • The farmers recognized the value of farm record keeping.
  • The farmers were getting higher prices for their grain due to improved quality.
  • The farmers increased their soybean production, sales and consumption. They could feel and see the difference that soybeans in their diet had on their health and the health and well-being of their children.
  • The farmers learned to market grain collectively for greater profitability.
  • Final interviews with the individual farmers showed that ninety-six percent of them said the project brought a number of positive changes in their households.
Sheila Hebenstreit, an Iowa farmer and agronomists discusses soybeans with a Ugandan farmer and they learn from each other.
Our project was unique for a Farmer-to-Farmer project because all but one of the volunteer farmers and agriculture educators were women and we worked directly with groups of women farmers in Uganda. We believed that this enabled us to have a more immediate connection with the Ugandan women and they felt comfortable sharing the challenges they face farming and feeding their families. During one of our visit first trips to Uganda, a male faculty member from Iowa State University, who works on projects in the Kamuli District of Uganda, was very surprised to hear how much information that the farmers shared with us during our first hour-long visit with them. “I haven’t learned that much from them in several visits,” he told us.
Volunteers Jennifer Steffen, Emily Babin, and Brenda Zylstra pose with one of the farmer groups that participated in the project.
Five of the many lessons we learned were:
  1. Farming has several common denominators and challenges no matter where you farm.
  2. Through the Farmer-to-Farmer program, every one learns from each other.
  3. Don’t let language be a barrier. Farmers seem to understand the same universal language. 
  4. Availability of simple tools and supplies can make a huge impact on the livelihoods of farmers.
  5. Even small successes can have positive rippling impacts. 
Although English is the official language in Uganda, we communicated primarily through an interpreter as well as showing and doing.
Although not a lesson, we were amazed and impressed with the strength and resilience of Ugandan women farmers. They had a passion to learn and willingness to work together to feed and educate their children and improve their communities. 

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!