Welcome to the 2015 Farmer-to-Farmer Blog Series – Celebrating 30 Years of Farmer-to-Farmer!
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.
Greetings from the USAID Bureau for Food Security and welcome to this special blog series on the John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer Program (F2F)! Now in its 30th year, F2F provides short-term, voluntary technical assistance to farmers, farm groups and agribusinesses in developing countries to promote sustainable economic growth and capacity building.
Farmer-to-Farmer was first authorized by the U.S. Congress in 1985 to provide for the transfer of knowledge and expertise of U.S. agricultural producers and businesses on a voluntary basis to developing and middle-income countries and emerging democracies. The 2008 Farm Bill designated the F2F program the "John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter F2F Program" in honor of one of the pilots killed on September 11, 2001 and former Congressman Bereuter, who initially sponsored the program. The program is funded through Title V of Public Law 480, through the Office of Food for Peace. Now, 30 years later, F2F continues to send hundreds of U.S. volunteers each year to more than 26 countries, concentrated in seven regions of the world: West Africa; Southern Africa; East Africa; the Middle East and North Africa; Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia; Asia; and the Caribbean. In addition to regional programs, F2F also provides support through smaller, more focused small grants and program development projects.
United States foreign assistance has long recognized the value of citizen volunteer services as an effective development tool to complement other direct investments. As the F2F Program enters its 30th year of service to small farmers and rural people in developing countries, it builds on a long tradition.
Roots of U.S. international volunteerism go deep. Private organizations—mostly faith-based—have long carried out humanitarian and developmental activities overseas. Another important effort was that of the Thomasite teachers (named for the ship that many of them traveled on), who were recruited by the United States Government to establish a school system in the Philippines.
In 1953, the USAID predecessor agency (ICA—International Cooperation Agency) brought together individuals with experience in faith-based volunteer programs and the Thomasite program to facilitate the establishment of a secular International Voluntary Services (IVS) NGO. This was specifically to complement U.S. developmental loans and grants overseas, providing American technical assistance for technological innovation and institutional capacity development. Initial IVS volunteer programs in Egypt, Iraq and Viet Nam in the 1950s were extremely well-received and led directly to the establishment of the U.S. Peace Corps, which has fielded tens of thousands of international volunteers.
USAID has supported many other volunteer programs and continues to encourage the use of volunteers in all major program initiatives.
The Farmer-to-Farmer Program builds on this long tradition of volunteerism with support from U.S. development programs and the volunteer ethic of American citizens. In the 30 years since it was launched, F2F has fielded more than 16,700 volunteers to work with nearly 12,000 host organizations in 112 countries.
While other programs deliver aid from the American people, F2F is unique in that it delivers the American people themselves. Volunteers typically spend between 14 and 21 days in their host country, working closely with local farmers and agribusiness professionals on problems and priorities identified by their hosts. Volunteers can accomplish a great deal during their two to three weeks on assignment, while developing friendships that last long after the assignment has ended. This people-to-people aspect of the program is one of its major assets and ensures F2F’s long-term impacts.
Through December 11, implementers and partners in the Farmer-to-Farmer community will be posting daily to reflect on the 30 years of the program. You will read stories about F2F activities, and hear directly from volunteers, partners, beneficiaries and key participants as they describe their experiences with F2F, focusing on technology transfer, capacity development, natural resource management and F2F’s unique role in citizen diplomacy. We hope this insight into F2F sparks your interest, encourages you to follow the on-going Agrilinks and partner blogs, and inspires you to volunteer or tell a friend.
Please contribute your own questions and reflections in the comments section below, and make sure to follow @Agrilinks on Twitter for new posts.
We look forward to sharing the program with you!
J. Erin Baize
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.