Making a Difference — Farmer to Farmer

By Marjatta Eilitta

During my first year as Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program director, I have seen first-hand that volunteers are the heart and soul of the Farmer-to-Farmer program.

Montana’s Wayne Burleson provided training on compost production to 142 farmers in the Eastern Province of Zambia using an on-the-ground, hands-on approach — and sharing his great enthusiasm and love for farming.

During his time in Zambia, volunteer Bill Hitz from Delaware provided methodological and supportive coaching to improve a maize-processing company’s procedures and product quality.

Hawaii’s David Ringuette shared his knowledge of banana cultivation, gained in his home state, with farmers in Madagascar’s Vatovavy Fitovinany region.

In Chibuwe, Zimbabwe, Molly Ames from Colorado trained farmers in business management.

In Malawi, Oklahoma’s Joe Sullivan trained both farmers and research staff in fish farm management and fingerling production.

Wisconsin’s Diego Calderon supported Moldova’s Veterinary Association with lectures in metabolic diseases.

And Jim Worstell and Lani Jordan from Minnesota helped fuel the growth of the Moldovan Organic Alliance (MOVCA) by pitching in with strategic planning and communication preparations for an international trade show.

These are just a handful of the dedicated volunteers I have had the privilege of meeting in Southern Africa and Moldova in the past year.

This December 5 — International Volunteers Day — we celebrate the contributions of volunteers worldwide, including those working for Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) during CNFA’s current, 2018–2023 program in Moldova, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. We also honor the contributions of the 2,971 volunteers whose assignments CNFA has facilitated since it began to implement F2F in 1993.

We at CNFA are grateful for your commitment to bringing about economic growth through agriculture, and we thank you for fostering people-to-people diplomacy by generously sharing your expertise and time with farmer organizations, small and medium-sized businesses, agricultural ministries, schools, universities and other agricultural institutions.

Farmer-to-Farmer is a unique program that relies on three important activities that work together to generate favorable outcomes for volunteers and beneficiaries alike.

First, it drives economic growth through agricultural development in economies where most of the population is engaged in agriculture. In Malawi, Madagascar and Zimbabwe, for example, more than 80 percent of the population is engaged in farming that suffers from low productivity and generates low incomes for farmers. F2F works to improve livelihoods in these countries by increasing the productivity and profitability of the key agricultural enterprises — whether through food crops such as peanuts or cowpeas, or more market-oriented enterprises such as livestock, spices and poultry.

The second F2F focus, people-to-people diplomacy, builds and promotes an understanding of the United States and U.S. development assistance through the intensive time volunteers spend with host organizations. This engagement may include providing training or coaching, facilitating processes such as business plan development, or conducting informal discussions and visits. Equally important, many of our volunteers return to United States and share their experiences in their communities through presentations, newspaper articles and social media posts.

The third focus — the act of volunteering itself — contributes immensely to the success of the program. In training and events conducted throughout the regions targeted by the program, beneficiary participants are taken by the fact that experts have come from thousands of miles away to generously share their expertise — for weeks, not hours — and for free. As a result, our volunteers enjoy high credibility and respect wherever they apply their skills and expertise.

We at CNFA thank, honor and value all of our volunteers — and we are certain that on this International Volunteer Day, the farmer organizations, small and medium-sized businesses and other agricultural organizations assisted by our volunteers join us in saying “Thank you!” to all our past, current and future Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers!

The author is Marjatta Eilitta, program director of USAID’s Southern Africa Farmer-to-Farmer program, implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA).



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