The USAID funded Farmer-to-Farmer program implemented by NCBA CLUSA in Peru, Ecuador, Honduras, and El Salvador recently celebrated sending over 137 volunteers to the field. Surpassing the 100-volunteer milestone was a significant achievement considering challenges that COVID-19 brought to coffee and cacao producers in Latin America. The NCBA CLUSA implemented F2F program is celebrating this huge milestone by reflecting on success thanks to all of the volunteers and in-country staff that have dedicated their time to implementing change in the field.
Supporting host organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic was a significant challenge considering the struggles producer organizations, volunteers and the staff were up against. Despite this challenge, F2F provided technical assistance to producer groups to promote business, production, and overall livelihoods. Cynthia Mendoza, the F2F Peru Country Director, highlights that during that time, “we had just finished our very first assignment and had another volunteer in the airport when borders started to shut down. Priorities quickly shifted and the safety of our staff became our most important priority”. Ines Deustua, Senior Field Coordinator in Peru stated, “adapting to work remotely and depending solely on communicating with our host organizations virtually was a big challenge at the beginning”. Many host organizations did not have internet connection or were not accustomed to virtual communication and needed to adjust to the now mandatory world of virtual sales. In many rural areas, there was no remote work culture as people typically rely on in-person interactions to build business relationships. The Farmer-to-Farmer program found it necessary to adapt and develop virtual and paired remote assignments between a virtual U.S. volunteer and a local in-country volunteer. Logistics, contingency plans, and safety measures changed to ensure all COVID safety procedures were followed correctly. However, despite such turbulent times, the program, volunteers, and host organizations continued to persevere.
Since 2018, the program has built relationships and sent volunteers on assignments with 65 different host organizations. Host Organizations which have worked hard to increase their sales, improve their branding, and shift towards more sustainable farming practices. The NCBA CLUSA implemented F2F program has had the pleasure of collaborating with these host organizations to achieve these goals. Despite COVID-19, increases in fertilizer prices, and increased incidences of rain and pests, host organizations such as ASOPROMAS in Ecuador, Monte Azul in Peru, COMSA in Honduras, and many others have adapted and exceeded their own established objectives. Cynthia Mendoza, the Peru Country Director wanted to highlight Monte Azul, a coffee cooperative in Peru which has built a relationship with F2F since 2018 and have actively worked to improve their coffee crops using organic and climate smart practices. CACAU, a cacao cooperative in Peru, has improved their marketable product portfolio while working with US volunteers to understand the international market. COMSA, a coffee cooperative in Honduras have begun the process receive a carbon neutral certification of their fields. The Farmer-to-Farmer program, during these 137 assignments have collaborated with host organizations on a wide range of topics to promote human development and create more resilient organizations and individuals.
“It has been a long road full of challenges, but it is really rewarding when we are able to see the results of our work. I want to mention how proud I am on all our Farmer-to-Farmer staff past and present that makes the program runs and be the success that it is.” says Megan Wall, the F2F Program Director as she reflects on the program. Of course, this would not have been possible without the effort of our volunteers which have collectively volunteered 1311 days over a period of 4 years. Volunteers and host organizations are the soul of the program, and we are truly thankful to each and every one of them. We are proud to celebrate this achievement and can’t wait for the next 137 assignments!