Women-led Capacity Sharing for Sustainable Agricultural Development in the Caribbean Basin
Did you know that women make up 43 percent of the global agricultural labor force? The USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer program (F2F) at Partners of the Americas is proud to work with talented women across the Western Hemisphere from our U.S.-based volunteer experts to the communities of agricultural producers and leaders we support in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Guyana, Jamaica and Myanmar.
Since 2019, over 180 women have volunteered their technical expertise through F2F assignments in our six host countries. From the field to the market, these volunteers are supporting local partners across key value chains to address their most pressing needs through innovative approaches. F2F prioritizes partnering with women and women-led groups in each host country to engage with volunteers, lead activities and trainings, and advance local economic growth, agricultural development and food security across the region.
In recognition of Women’s History Month and their significant contributions to our global agricultural economies, check out a snapshot of our women-led and women-centered F2F assignments from this year:
Combating Malnutrition Through Water Purification and Desalinization in the Wayuu Indigenous Community
La Guajira, Colombia — The Wayuu indigenous community faces the critical challenge of water scarcity and contamination. This not only affects their agricultural livelihoods, but also their collective drinking water supply. Lack of clean water exacerbates the high levels of childhood malnutrition the community experiences. The community and the local foundation, Fundación Maria Luisa, requested an F2F volunteer to provide trainings on applicable water desalinization and purification techniques.
Jan Surface, a water quality specialist and aquatic ecologist, conducted trainings in water management, conservation and basic desalination and filtering techniques at the foundation’s local school, Colegio Etnoeducativo Pulitchamana. Ms. Surface tailored her sessions to address the community’s immediate concerns. She wrote that each workshop was filled to capacity by diverse and engaged members of the community. “We had excellent discussions, questions galore, and impassioned speeches on coming together as a community to implement these recommendations.” One of the teachers even retaught the workshops in Wayuunaiki, the Wayuu Community language, to ensure that everyone fully understood the concepts. Participants learned and practiced purifying their local water supply through bottle distillation and bucket filters.
Following Ms. Surface’s technical workshops and recommendations, the community and Fundación Maria Luisa made a plan to implement these water quality and treatment practices. Community leaders gave their support to adopt fencing, trough construction, composting and water treatment at their farms to improve the water quality and expand their food production. Additionally, the communities will pool resources to build a concrete animal watering trough and fence at the school well location. The Pulitchamana teachers will incorporate the new concepts into their curriculum in the coming school session.
This is the Wayuu Community’s first experience with the F2F program and it already has generated significant impact. To build off Ms. Surface’s trainings and address other community concerns, the Wayuu Community have invited a second F2F volunteer to assess and provide training on sustainable agricultural practices and food safety.
Women-led Goat and Chicken Production for Financial and Food Security in the Western Highlands
Huehuetenango, Guatemala — The Cabras para la Prosperidad (CABPRO) project works to strengthen the capacity of women who are pregnant or with young children to raise dairy goats and chickens and improve household nutrition. The women involved in the CABPRO project work with F2F volunteers to incorporate best practices in goat and chicken production, participate in cooking classes to increase the nutritional value of household meals and receive training in financial literacy to manage household resources.
Dr. Jacqueline Jacobs, and F2F volunteer, traveled to Huehuetenango to assess the current small-scale poultry operations in the CABPRO communities and provide recommendations to improve production. She visited households with backyard poultry production and led workshops to address key issues currently affecting the productivity of their operations. Dr. Jacobs conducted trainings on hen housing, nutrition and disease prevention to 43 people, 75 percent of which were women.
Since Dr. Jacobs’ assignment, the CABPRO communities have received support of other F2F volunteers including Dr. Tatiana Stanton and Dr. Leyla Rios, a goat genetics expert and goat parasite expert, respectively. Following her assignment, Dr. Stanton noted that one of the goals and challenges of the project is “to get people to see the animal as a valuable source of nutrition for children who are coming off the breast and need the extra nutrition they can get from goat milk in their crucial young years.” These are just one of the many benefits that these goats and chickens can provide to rural families if managed efficiently. The women participating in CABPRO are better equipped with the skills and methods to care for their livestock sustainably and effectively and thus improve their families’ nutrition and production.
Transformation of a Women Cooperative’s Nuts and Cassava Processing in Southern Guyana
Region 9, Guyana — Helping Hands Women Producers Cooperative Society is an indigenous women’s cooperative from the St. Ignatius community. Formed in 1999 initially as a cottage industry, this group of 16 women have expanded their business to collectively produce and sell value-added products. Helping Hands uses the community-owned agro-processing facility to process their products from local agricultural crops like rupununi peanuts, cashews and cassava. Due to the pandemic and limited production knowledge, Helping Hands has difficulty in producing sufficient output and marketing their merchandise to larger markets.
F2F Host and Helping Hands' government partner, New Guyana Marketing Corporation, invited processing expert Mary Leong to work alongside Helping Hands and assess their current production operations. She performed a cost analysis and showed Helping Hands how they could increase their volume through more efficient production and scheduling of specific products like their peanut butter. Ms. Leong also learned that that despite recent renovations to the facility, the members of Helping Hands had no training on how to use the new equipment like grinders, fillers and peelers. The members went through a demonstration and training on how to properly use and clean the equipment. Ms. Leong provided illustrative step-by-step instructions to be placed on the wall for the group to use in the future.
Following Ms. Leong’s workshops and assessments, Helping Hands has a transformed way of thinking about their products, costing and production. Using these new analysis tools, they can see which products are most profitable and how to schedule their production to increase time and cost-savings. With these saved costs, the women of Helping Hands have more time to focus on other areas of their business, such as marketing, sales and new agricultural products.
Farmer-to-Farmer at Partners of the Americas is grateful to all the women who contribute to and lead in the global agricultural community. Beyond International Women’s Day, we continue to advocate and stand as allies for women and their increased recognition, access and leadership in their agricultural communities.
About: The USAID-funded John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer Program provides technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries to promote sustainable improvements in food security and agricultural processing, production and marketing.
If you are interested in volunteering with a Farmer-to-Farmer assignment, please visit farmer-to-farmer.org to learn more!