Farmer-to-Farmer at 30: Reflecting on Three Decades of Agricultural Exchange
This article is a contribution to a four-week blog series celebrating 30 years of USAID’s John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program.
Adapted from remarks delivered by Sahara Moon Chapotin at the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program 30th Anniversary Learning Event, December 3, 2015.
The Farmer-to-Farmer program has a long and proud history at USAID and in coordination with the US Government’s Feed the Future initiative. Americans have volunteered their time for over 16,700 assignments to work with partners in more than 110 countries, providing invaluable technical assistance to over 1.3 million farm families over the course of the program’s 30 years. USAID and our country Missions greatly value the volunteer support they receive with each Farmer-to-Farmer exchange.
The success of F2F is due first of all to the Volunteers. Volunteers are the heart and soul of the program. They bring a wealth of knowledge, professionalism and expertise, which they generously share with others.
However, volunteers could not succeed without our implementing partners, the NGOs, universities and private firms that keep this program running. The strong collaboration and cooperation demonstrated by F2F’s implementing partners has made this program highly effective.
Lastly, key to the program’s success are the technical, local country Farmer-to-Farmer officers on the ground who help facilitate the volunteer assignments, ensuring that all our volunteers have the support they need. Working with those country officers are the local hosts—the farmers, cooperatives, agribusinesses, and local NGOs—that request and receive the volunteer assistance, providing support to volunteer assignments, acting on volunteer recommendations, and ensuring local ownership, impact and sustainability.
In additional to the invaluable human capital provided to and through F2F, there are several reasons this program is still going strong after 30 years.
Firstly, we align our requests with our local hosts and partners, who help spread new innovations and institutionalize the services the volunteers provide. Over 90 percent of F2F country subsector projects are fully aligned with or integrated into USAID Mission country programs.
Secondly, these programs are focused and targeted—either on specific geographic areas, specific commodities, or services. This allows F2F staff and volunteers to engage more effectively and build specialized expertise and impact.
Thirdly, this program has been highly adaptable to changing times and global needs. It is flexible and able to respond to opportunities and needs of hosts. Changes over the 30 years of F2F include globalization, population growth and urbanization, environmental challenges, greater public interest in food safety, and changes in global threats, including the end of the Cold War and the rise in terrorism. As host country needs have changed, including an increased demand from global markets for consistent quality and an increased focus on food safety, our programs have continued to change to meet this new demand, all while our F2F base has changed. Fewer Americans are engaged directly in farming. As a result, over time, the program has expanded its services to provide new expertise in a variety of agricultural fields, including soil testing, certification systems, ICT applications to financial and advisory services—just to name a few. The program has evolved over time, changing from a focus on people-to-people exchanges, to strengthening local NGOs and community organizations, to economic growth and lastly to enhancing local service development and delivery capabilities and adjusting to environmental challenges.
As we’ve learned, F2F volunteers are particularly well-suited to address farmers’ needs in four key areas:
Technology transfer has long been the core of volunteer activities—sharing US technologies and practices with local host organizations. The practical, real-world experience that volunteers from US farms and agribusinesses can offer remains in high demand. Today, we are targeting women and small farm producers through support to local service providers. As a result, we are not only increasing the quality of products produced in our host countries, we are also increasing opportunities for sales of U.S. products and trade.
Central to the F2F program is increased human and institutional capacity development. Volunteers are well suited to increase individual capacity, with trainings, institutional capacity development and occasionally operating environment capacity.
F2F is increasingly focused on natural resource management and environmental issues, which are receiving more attention due to increased concerns with climate change and pressures on the agricultural resource base. Good agriculture is “climate smart.” Production systems must conserve soil, water and biodiversity. Our volunteers are helping hosts adopt integrated pest management techniques, diversify crops, increase agroforestry, community resource management, and renewable energy for powering agriculture.
Lastly,our volunteers are sharing citizen diplomacy. Helping US citizens understand global issues and share US values. As we know, this is a two way transfer; volunteers learn and share their experiences widely, both in the host country and back home in the US. One of the reasons USAID loves this program is that, unlike many development programs, F2F really puts a face to foreign assistance; USAID’s motto “from the American people” takes on a real meaning and human face. In return, the F2F volunteers take their experience home and help their communities understand the accomplishments of foreign assistance.
It is programs like F2F, working in coordination and supporting the broader, U.S. Government’s Feed the Future Initiative, which will help improve the lives and livelihoods of millions of people around the world.
From November 16-December 11, F2F program partners are sharing their knowledge and experience providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. 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. This blog series aims to capture and share this program experience.
Read more articles celebrating 30 years of F2F on Agrilinks (http://agrilinks.org/blog/farmer2farmer).