Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Recounts Assignment in Zambia

NCBA CLUSA had the opportunity to chat with Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Brittany Jablonsky, a member of NCBA CLUSA’s Board of Directors and Director of Advocacy Communications with National Farmers Union, following her assignment in Zambia. She recounts her experience with fellow volunteer Ellen Linderman, a senior member of the North Dakota Farmers Union. The two returned in July 2013 from a volunteer assignment working with the Chipata District Farmers Association and the Community Oriented Development Program to improve the marketing of their farmer members’ crops. The Chipata District Farmers Association (CDFA) recently registered as a cooperative in Zambia, with the help of a previous Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer and National Farmers Union Board member. 

What was your overall impression of the experience? Do you think the Farmer-to-Farmer program is a good idea?

Absolutely! I think it is just as a valuable for U.S. farmers as it is for farmers in the developing world because now you have two more people who can be advocates here in the U.S. and really have a much better understanding of some of the challenges that the developing world faces. I was always interested in these issues but I didn’t know much about them and certainly wasn’t able to talk about them from a firsthand perspective.

You said you grew up on a farm?

I did. I grew up on a farm in North Dakota. We had wheat and beef cattle. It was a very different scale and that is the thing that was so interesting; farmers everywhere face the same issues: risk management problems, credit problems, difficulty accessing markets, and determining which markets are most appropriate and will be the most lucrative. Those are challenges farmers everywhere face no matter where you are.

From that perspective, why did you personally decide to do this?

I was really interested in seeing how the exact opposite kind of agriculture from our U.S. production really worked on a very fundamental level and the relationship with the global system. We (National Farmers Union) work a lot on policy issues that are mostly domestic, but our food system is global. You hear things about how the policies in one country impacts another but you don’t get firsthand knowledge of that, it’s very anecdotal and hard to understand.

We learned a lot from the farmers about how the system works, the government’s role in agriculture, and how they interact with neighboring countries via exports. I got a much better understanding of how the system works together.

F2F Zambia Jablonsky Linderman 350x350F2F Zambia Jablonsky Linderman 350x350Ellen Linderman (left) and Brittany Jablonsky (right) on assigment in ZambiaWhat was your assignment on this trip?

We were given marketing assignments. We talked with local staff beforehand to learn what the best information was that we could convey while we were there. We mostly covered very basic marketing concepts, talking about what products bring you the most money in the market, what specific markets are most lucrative for certain products, and getting folks to start thinking about the idea of profit and record keeping as a necessary way of understanding or knowing what the best things are to continue or expand into new markets. We also talked about marketing concepts like identifying new customers, providing the customers with what they want and how to meet some of those needs.

Did you find it difficult to do the teaching?

Absolutely, I didn’t know how to exactly fill their needs; I didn’t want to be too simplistic but I also didn’t know what level the farmers were at and wanted to be easy to understand. I just wanted it to be useful for them in some way. That was a bit challenging but overall everyone was interested. We typically taught in classrooms to 15-30 people but sometimes we were outside, one class was outside under a fig tree in the middle of a village with pigs and chickens and goats roaming around us – it was pretty amazing! 

What kind of farms did you see? How was the product?

It was astonishing to me how many different things they were growing. They had very diversified operations. We would start every session with the farmers listing some of the things that they grow and it was many things. It’s good because you can access different markets if one is not doing well. Some of the things they were growing they don’t get a lot of money for, so why don’t you not grow that and grow something else. What we learned is that people grow what their neighbors grow without a lot of thought put into the question of ‘Can I really make money off of this?’

Throughout all the conversations that you had and trainings that you led, what did you see was the most common challenge that the farmers face?

Transportation is a huge challenge and just the lack of mechanization, the time it takes to do things really limits your ability to actually harvest the things that you grow and plant everything. Chipata may be a more lucrative market than some of the local villages but if you’re several kilometers away it is incredibly time consuming to get products to market.

Did you encounter a lot of gender issues and how were you perceived as a woman going there and teaching?

Some of the farmers who we met with who are leaders in CDFA in particular were women. That was  really encouraging. I was surprised in a way to see that some of the leaders were women. In a lot of our meetings the men and women sat separately and had their own little conversations going on but both were very much engaged. It seemed to me that the people who were really engaged in the meeting, regardless of gender, were more educated; they were asking questions that were technical in nature, a little more specific, they knew what to ask compared to the farmers that weren’t as educated who didn’t interact as much.

It was very important that Ellen in particular was able to be a part of the experience because she herself is a leader in her organization here in the U.S. and she and her husband farm together, she does all the farm labor just as much as he does. We passed around pictures of our farms here in the U.S. and one is of Ellen driving the combine and some of the farmers didn’t believe it was her. She told them that this is very much part of what she does on the farm and that was important just so people know women are out in the field doing this work.

On a more personal note, what do you feel impressed you the most?

The thing that I enjoyed the most was the meeting we had outside. I loved that we were right in the middle of the village, everyone’s houses were around us so people were welcoming you into their homes in a way and into their neighborhood. Everyone was so welcoming the entire trip. At the end of that meeting the farmers there sang us a song in appreciation. I just really loved that they sang us a song and asked us to come dance with them. You made these instant friends and that was awesome.

All in all, what was the largest takeaway that you had from this whole experience?

Two things, one is just that the bulk of the issues they face are what we faced in the U.S. 100 years ago, trying to scale up, addressing mechanization and market access issues. Co-ops are a huge part of that. National Farmers Union was founded in 1902 and started its first co-op in 1906 and that really paved the way for the farmer-owned movements and provided some great economic benefits for our members and to farmers all over the country. I see the same issues and the same need, it would be interesting to be able to see how things change in the next 50 years.

The other thing is just how important education is. A lot of the challenges that farmers in Zambia face could be solved or alleviated through greater education opportunities, both formal and informal. The government has a role in encouraging greater education, there’s a need for a much greater effort.

So now that you’ve had this experience, what are your thoughts on the Farmer-to-Farmer program?

I think it is great. It was an incredibly valuable experience. It obviously has its limitations; we had such a small amount of time with every group that was very challenging. It would be nice to do an ongoing project with the same group of farmers to be able to do a series of workshops that they needed and really be able to see some of the impacts of the trainings. All in all I thought it was an incredible opportunity and an incredible program.

Who would you recommend to go on a trip like this?

I would say anyone who is interested in global issues and the intersection of U.S. agriculture with farmers across the world. You have to have a flexible personality and be able to adapt to the situation because we didn’t know a lot about the farmers we would be meeting with when we got there. Farmers in the U.S. have an incredible amount of knowledge and can use their experiences finding markets and  dealing with storage issues, all of those things are the perfect analogy for issues that the farmers in Zambia were facing just on a different scale. 

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Project Profile: USAID|Yaajeende Agriculture and Nutrition Development Program for Food Security in Senegal

Sector: Food Security and Agriculture
Country: Senegal
Partners: Sheladia Associates, Counterpart International, Heifer Project International

Project Overview

Despite relatively sufficient supplies of food, Senegal suffers from chronic food insecurity and like many neighboring sub-Saharan and Sahelian countries, is classified as “serious” on IFPRI’s Global Hunger Index. Senegal is a country with rich agricultural opportunity and yet imports nearly 70% of its food. Current production cannot keep pace with increasing demand from a growing population and rising food prices are limiting families’ ability to provide a diverse and healthy diet.

Web USAID Yaajeende Profile SidebarWeb USAID Yaajeende Profile SidebarFood Security for the Future
Schools are a critical platform for the promotion of nutritional activities, providing access to vulnerable populations while providing a venue to develop better nutritional habits in young people. School gardens provide students with hands-on opportunities to learn agricultural techniques, the importance of a balanced and varied diet, and the value of community based development, integrating key components of USAID|Yaajeende into one educational program. In addition to 29 identified community garden sites, the program has identified 50 schools where it will train Parent Teacher Associations and teachers on how to create, manage and maintain school gardens. These gardens will include a wide variety of nutritious fruits and vegetables, including nutrient and calorie dense crops such as the orange sweet potato, Moringa, carrots and green beans, and enhance food security for future generations in Senegal.

To combat food insecurity in Senegal, CLUSA has embarked on a five-year, $40 million USAID-funded program to accelerate the participation of the very poor in rural economic growth and to catalyze sustainable development with Senegal’s agriculture sector and improve the key dimensions of food security – access, availability, utilization and stability. As one of the original programs of the Feed the Future Initiative, USAID|Yaajeende is predicated on the United Nation’s Rome Principles for Sustainable Global Food Security, and employs an innovative, country-led and integrated approach to tackle the underlying issues which hold back the very poor from becoming integral and active members of the rural, agricultural marketplace.

Web USAID Yaajeende Profile Main Image ScaledWeb USAID Yaajeende Profile Main Image ScaledUSAID|YAAJEENDE attacks the endemic food security problem through an integrated approach that works with rural producers through nutrition-led agriculture, whereby improved agricultural and wild food products are promoted within the rural value chain that would diminish identified nutritional deficiencies when consumed, thereby also with:

Entrepreneurs who buy, resell, store, transport and transforms agricultural products.

Microfinance Institutions and Banks who provide loans and services for the producers and the entrepreneurs.

Suppliers that provide: fertilizers, improved seeds, and agricultural equipment.

Cooperatives and Civil Society Members that are involved in decision making and local policy-making on topics related to food security and nutrition.

Consumers improve their knowledge of better food practices, increasing the need for nutritional products.

CLUSA will improve the food security and nutrition of 1,000,000 individuals across 60 rural communities in four regions of Senegal. The team will establish a network of 1,000 Community Based Service Providers (CBSPs) to provide input supplies, agricultural services and nutritional products to rural people on a commission basis. Total sales of inputs and services provided through the CBSP network plus the total commodity sales of produced outputs will equal $30 million by Year 5. Household incomes will be improved by 250%. Stunting will be reduced by 25% in USAID|Yaajeende target zones and the number of underweight children will be reduced by 35%.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Country Profile: Mozambique

“Empowering Small Scale Farmers”

NCBA CLUSA is committed to the successful development of producer organizations in Mozambique and believes that empowering local farmers ultimately leads to stronger, more food secure communities. In Mozambique, NCBA CLUSA has an impressive track record of high-outcome continuous operations since it began working in country after the civil war, in 1995. To date, NCBA CLUSA’s on-going agriculture/food security and market development activities has benefited over 100,000 small producers in 5 different provinces in Mozambique.

Project: OXFAM Novib| Development of a Producer Owned Trading Company in Niassa, Mozambique Sector: Food Security and Agriculture

NCBA CLUSA, in partnership with Oxfam Netherlands, implemented this three year, $1.7 million dollar project and provided investment, technical assistance, volunteer services, and training to establish and strengthen ALIMI—a sustainable and successful farmer-controlled trading company.

Mozambique Soybean Farmers 350x350Mozambique Soybean Farmers 350x350Mozambique Soybean Farmers

ALIMI represents members from local associations from six districts in the Niassa province of Mozambique, and represents approximately 13,000 farmers, organized into 50 zonal unions and 417 associations. As an agricultural cooperative, ALIMI provides improved extension services to small scale farmers, including increasing access to inputs and credit and creating marketing and processing opportunities for local farmers. ALIMI’s current membership of 424 farmers markets sesame, pigeon peas, soybeans, mung beans, maize, tobacco, cotton and ground nuts.

NCBA CLUSA successfully engaged civil society and the Government of Mozambique to improve cooperative laws. Through NCBA CLUSA’s efforts, a comprehensive new Cooperative Law was passed in 2009 and ALIMI Limited Responsibility Cooperative (Coop. RL) became the first officially registered cooperative.

ALIMI is an established and self-sufficient local entity that adheres to good business practices – increasing farmer income through higher farm gate prices and greater productivity levels. The organization enables farmers to retain ownership and local control over the marketing of their produce and provides access to higher value regional, Asian, and European markets. The company’s Board of Directors and management team have benefited from NCBA CLUSA’s technical assistance in building the organization’s capacity to drive the up the profitability of the cooperative. The successful emergence of ALIMI as a new trading entity in southern Niassa is a critical element that links and empowers small farmer organizations.

 

 

Obama Tours Food Security Projects in Senegal Highlighting NCBA CLUSA’s Work in Feed the Future Initiative

June 28, 2013

Contact: John Torres
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Obama Tours Food Security Projects in Senegal Highlighting NCBA CLUSA’s Work in Feed the Future Initiative

(WASHINGTION, DC) – On Friday, June 28, President Barack Obama, along with the head of USAID, Rajiv Shah, toured a food security expo in Senegal highlighting projects from the Administration’s flagship Feed the Future initiative. NCBA CLUSA is the lead implementer in the USAID-funded Yaajeende project and was one of six booths that directly reported results to President Obama.

“I had a wonderful opportunity to visit this expo and meet some remarkable men and women who are helping us meet an urgent challenge that affects nearly 900 million people around the world… chronic hunger and the need for long-term food security,” said President Obama during a press conference following his tour.

Speaking with Obama, NCBA CLUSA’s Senior Technical Advisor, Pape Sene explained the various uses and nutritional power of the fruit from the Baobab tree that is being used in the project to boost nutrition and help with the absorption of other vitamins and minerals.

“I was a great opportunity to share the success of this program with President Obama. He was intently listening, and focused and understood the importance of the linkage between health and nutrition,” said Pape Sene. “President Obama was very impressed with the work that NCBA CLUSA is doing here in Senegal.”

Watch the Video

NCBA CLUSA launched the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded “Yaajeende” (meaning “abundance”) food security project in November 2010. Since then the project has demonstrated a 22% increase in children aged 6-23 months consuming a Minimal Acceptable Diet, the World Health Organization’s measure of what is needed to ensure appropriate growth and development.

“That’s a fat and happy kid!” stated Obama when shown a picture of one of the children who benefitted from improved nutrition.

During the tour, Obama also meet Oumou Gadio (pictured on the right), a participant in the NCBA CLUSA Community-based Solution Provider (CBSP) innovation. CBSP’s are private entrepreneurs who are based in the target communities and who create linkages between the private sector and the producer organizations. Women account for 25% of the CBSP’s in Senegal and are critical in scaling up agriculture and nutrition activities and bringing products to the field.

Obama Tours Food Security Projects in Senegal Highlighting NCBA CLUSA’s Work in Feed the Future InitiativeObama Tours Food Security Projects in Senegal Highlighting NCBA CLUSA’s Work in Feed the Future Initiative

“Here in Senegal and across Africa, most people are employed in agriculture. And we know compared to most other sectors, growth in agriculture is far more effective in reducing poverty, including among women,” continued Obama.

Women are a major component of the USAID|Yaajeende project, managing and farming more than 330 community gardens. Mother-to-Mother group training, community meals, and education on sanitation and hygiene are other important ways NCBA CLUSA is integrating ways the program is achieving improved nutritional outcomes.

USAID|Yaajeende is a five-year, $40 million initiative of USAID Senegal under the Feed the Future program implemented by NCBA CLUSA in partnership with Heifer International, Counterpart International, Sheladia Associates, Inc., the Senegalese Institute for Agricultural Research (ISRA), Senegal’s National Malnutrition Prevention Unit (CLM), and hundreds of local governments, NGOs, and communities in 3 districts of Senegal.

The National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA) is the apex association for cooperative businesses in the United States and an international development organization. NCBA CLUSA provides cross-sector education, support, and advocacy that helps co-ops thrive. For nearly 100 years NCBA CLUSA has sought to advance and protect cooperative enterprises, highlighting the impact that cooperatives in bettering the lives of individuals and families. In the last 60 years, NCBA CLUSA has grown its international development portfolio to over $34 million of active programs in 15 countries.

 

Obama’s African Tour to Highlight Food Security Initiatives

June 27, 2013

Contact: John Torres
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
202.383.5452

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Obama’s African Tour to Highlight Regional Food Security Initiatives
NCBA CLUSA’s Nutrition-Led Agriculture Successful in Combating Malnutrition

(WASHINGTION, DC) – Arriving Wednesday, June 26, President Barack Obama’s first stop on his African tour is to Senegal, where his visit highlights the importance of his Administration’s focus on its flagship Feed the Future initiative. NCBA CLUSA is the lead implementer of the first Feed the Future project and shares the Administration’s concern for the Sahel region of Africa where the United Nations reports more than 10 million people are food insecure, of which 2.5 million suffer from moderate to severe malnutrition.

Obama Tours Food Security Projects in Senegal Highlighting NCBA CLUSA’s Work in Feed the Future InitiativeObama Tours Food Security Projects in Senegal Highlighting NCBA CLUSA’s Work in Feed the Future Initiative

“Food security has been one of our (Obama Administration’s) key development priorities, in which we’ve brought together the international community as well as the private sector behind approaches that strengthen African capacity in developing agricultural sectors that better feed the populations,” said Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor, during a White House briefing on Obama’s African schedule.

According to Obama’s schedule, on Friday June 28 he will have the opportunity to see the results that are being generated by this critical implementation. “President (Obama) will join an event that brings together private sector leaders and people from the agricultural sector in Senegal and across West Africa, and he will hear about the efforts that are being made to enhance food security…” stated Rhodes.

NCBA CLUSA launched the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded “Yaajeende” (meaning “abundance”) food security project in November 2010. Since then the project has demonstrated a 22% increase in children aged 6-23 months consuming a Minimal Acceptable Diet, the World Health Organization’s measure of what is needed to ensure appropriate growth and development. This is a major milestone, not only for Feed the Future, but also for NCBA CLUSA’s Nutrition-led Agriculture’s (NLA) innovative, integrated approach that determines what crops to produce and where to produce them based on the nutritional deficiencies of that region, as well as on market and income-generation potential.

“We are directly meeting nutritional needs by combining nutrition education with improved agricultural production, increased incomes, and a focus on women as main drivers of their families’ food access and consumption,” explains Papa Sene, NCBA CLUSA’s Senegalese Senior Technical Advisor.

A USAID case study has shown that USAID|Yaajeende has also achieved a 51% increase in iodized salt use, and an average of 21 kg of vegetables consumed by beneficiaries of community and home-garden interventions. In addition, over 160,000 participants have been reached with nutrition behavior changing activities and agricultural training.

Women are a major component of the USAID|Yaajeende project, managing and farming 330 community gardens, a major feature of the NLA approach. This, along with Bio-Reclamation of Degraded Lands (BDL), helps women gain land tenure to otherwise unused land that can be cultivated back to life for food production through special farming techniques. Mother-to-Mother group training, community meals, and education on sanitation and hygiene are other important ways NCBA CLUSA is integrating ways the program is achieving improved nutritional outcomes.

Increased production and economic growth have been the hallmarks of most agricultural projects. However, solely using those measurements is not always enough to reverse malnutrition, particularly among children under 5.

“By cultivating wild foods and improved crops, including bio-fortified varieties with higher nutritional value, and by teaching women producers the importance of micronutrients, such as iodine, Vitamin A, and zinc, to their health, we are changing how the poor are producing, accessing, and consuming food,” says NCBA CLUSA’s Chief Operating Officer, Amy Coughenour Betancourt.

One of the project’s most important innovations is the development of what NCBA CLUSA has coined “Community Based Solution Providers” (CBSP)—independent agents who market and distribute agricultural and nutritional supplies and services to smallholder farmers, farmer cooperatives, and communities who are typically hard to reach and have trouble accessing suppliers and markets. To date, these agents for agriculture and nutrition have delivered services and products worth over $700,000, which is serious income in Senegal’s rural economy.

“NCBA CLUSA is dedicated to tangible, sustainable solutions to food security around the world, and engaging our membership with opportunities to help through our Farmer-to-Farmer program,” said Mike Beall, President of NCBA CLUSA. “President Obama’s visit to Senegal highlights the importance of the progress being made, in a country that has tremendous potential. NCBA CLUSA is proud to play an active role in improving the quality of the lives of the people of Senegal.”

USAID|Yaajeende is a five-year, $40 million initiative of USAID Senegal under the Feed the Future program implemented by NCBA CLUSA in partnership with Heifer International, Counterpart International, Sheladia Associates, Inc., the Senegalese Institute for Agricultural Research (ISRA), Senegal’s National Malnutrition Prevention Unit (CLM), and hundreds of local governments, NGOs, and communities in 3 districts of Senegal.

NCBA CLUSA is a signatory to a $1 billion Food Security pledge by 33 NGO members of Interaction dedicating private resources to food security around the world. Visit www.NCBA.coop for more information.

The National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA) is the apex association for cooperative businesses in the United States and an international development organization working in areas such as food security, climate-smart agriculture, and cooperative development. NCBA CLUSA provides cross-sector education, support, and advocacy that helps co-ops thrive. For nearly 100 years NCBA CLUSA has sought to advance and protect cooperative enterprises, highlighting the impact that cooperatives in bettering the lives of individuals and families. In the last 60 years, NCBA CLUSA has the improved economic and social well-being of millions of farmers and their families in over 100 countries.

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