Last month’s meeting brought together 44 program staff from 13 countries, with the farthest among them traveling over 34 hours from the Philippines! The meeting was a one-week workshop series designed to strengthen the implementation of the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program, so volunteers and host organizations have the most impactful experience possible.
Collaboration, learning and adaptation, or CLA, took centerstage at the meeting, as evidenced by the participants’ enthusiasm to learn from one another across country boundaries and gaps in experience. The meeting brought together project staff who have worked on the Farmer-to-Farmer program for 17 years, as well as a significant portion of attendees who have only been with the program for a few weeks. This range of experience provided a valuable opportunity for newer staff to hear real-life examples from their peers to better anticipate and react to challenges they may face on the job, such as medical emergencies and managing work-life balance.
In addition, the Jamaican Ministers of Agriculture and Tourism paid a special visit to the team. They made opening remarks on the first day of the workshop that highlighted the importance of the Farmer-to-Farmer program in Jamaica, where Partners of the Americas is an implementer. They affirmed that the goal of the Farmer-to-Farmer program—to strengthen producer organizations and cooperatives—is aligned with the Ministries’ priorities to increase agricultural productivity and marketing for domestic consumption, not only among Jamaicans, but also tourists. Many attendees found it inspirational to contextualize the impact of their work within the broader country context.
The meeting closed out with field visits to two Farmer-to-Farmer host organizations. In the morning, the attendees visited the Aquaculture Division of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries where they received a guided tour from an aquaculture extension agent of the fish hatchery, ponds and other facilities. In the afternoon, the program team visited the Paraclete Ornamental Aquaculture Farm, where they learned about the challenges and opportunities in bringing ornamental fish to market. Both host organizations hope to benefit from the technical assistance of a Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer.
Overall, the meeting was considered a success. Those in attendance felt that they had sufficient opportunity to share ideas and problem solve together. Planned social activities in the evenings, coffee and lunch breaks, and icebreakers helped build relationships within and across country teams and organizations. Moreover, the majority of attendees felt enriched by the content of the workshops, which were designed to help program staff navigate challenging or ambiguous situations they may encounter on the job. Since returning home to their respective countries, headquarters and field staff have demonstrated their commitment to continued CLA by applying their learnings and continuing to share information and ideas.