Nov 30, 2015

When Learning is a Two-Way Street

By Rachel Lupberger, CNFA Farmer-to-Farmer

This article is a contribution to a four-week blog series celebrating 30 years of USAID’s John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program.

From November 16-December 11, F2F program partners are sharing their knowledge and experience providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. As aligned with Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, F2F works to support inclusive agriculture sector growth, facilitate private sector engagement in the agriculture sector, enhance development of local capacity and promote climate-smart development. Volunteer assignments address host-led priorities to expand economic growth that increases incomes and improves access to nutritious food. This blog series aims to capture and share this program experience.

The Farmer-to-Farmer program is built upon the principle that short-term technical assignments can catalyze the success of smallholder farmers, business owners, and cooperatives though utilizing the talents of American citizens. These trainings exemplify a transfer of knowledge from one person to another, and often prompt large-scale improvements in agricultural practices and in communities.  Yet, often volunteers don’t realize that the most pivotal moments in each assignment don’t happen in the field or in the classroom – they happen the moment they get off the plane in the host country, and upon return to American soil. Each F2F volunteer undertakes the responsibility to demonstrate U.S. values to partnering countries. Each person serves as an ambassador, representing not only themselves, their ideas, and their personal histories, but also the United States of America, depicting a country that recognizes its global responsibility to act to improve the lives of others.

Most Americans have never traveled to Angola, Mozambique, or Malawi, and it’s highly likely that most never will. In lieu of firsthand experience, often it is the role of the volunteer to enhance the images that others hold in their minds of these faraway places, to add a voice, a story, and a heart to the images that people carry. Just as assignments are created to transfer knowledge and improve livelihoods, the person-to-person cross-cultural experience serves to expand the knowledge, skills, culture, and mindset of volunteers and those they intend to serve.

Since 2013, CNFA volunteers have completed almost 400 outreach activities, penning articles in local community newspapers, posting on social media to their friends and family, making presentations at their Rotary Club, or just through casual conversation. Below, we highlight several volunteers who effectively shared their experiences with others.


It’s safe to say that Missouri resident and first-time F2F volunteer David Chappell did not know the word for “thank you” in Chewa prior to his assignment in Malawi. David, a biologist researcher at Monsanto, had not traveled extensively before boarding a plane to Malawi to work with the Mwaiwathu Tomato Producers and Processing Cooperative on tomato production.  Chappell used his background in horticulture production to train the cooperative on improved production practices. While on assignment, Chappell gained just as much as he taught- he found himself surprised at the interchangeable roles of teacher and student, absorbing information about traditional Malawian farming practices and the cultural history of the community. David commented to his family and friends about the immediacy of warmth he felt from the community in Malawi, and shared his experiences with his colleagues via a learning event at his workplace, as well as wrote a series of Facebook posts about his trip, engaging his friends and family to his experience.



F2F volunteer Drew Adam, a natural resource scientist, retired in 2014 from a long and rewarding 36-year career with the USDA. While most of his work was focused on domestic agriculture, Drew spent a few years in Afghanistan in the Foreign Agriculture Service, providing training and mentoring to Afghan government officials on soil testing, watershed management, and small agribusiness development to build capacity for the country’s agricultural sector.  In early September 2015, Drew was ready to return abroad, traveling to Mozambique to work with the Agripel Farmers Association on the principles of integrated farm management and crop budgeting. Adam worked side-by-side with the farmers, conducting daily trainings in the field. Adam was in awe of the strong work ethic demonstrated by the training participants – after a full day of  training, the farmers would quickly return to tending to their fields, often walking over three miles carrying 25-30 pounds of their crop yields. After his assignment, Drew wrote a press release to share with local news outlets to provide insight into his work abroad, for others to share in his experiences.


For Immediate Release

Date: 10/1/15

Local Agronomist Assists Vegetable Farmers in Mozambique

Brattleboro,VT – Drew Adam, longtime resident of Brattleboro recently retired from the Brattleboro USDA Field Office, traveled to Mozambique on September 8 as a volunteer of the United States Agency for International Development-supported (USAID) Farmer-to-Farmer program.  The John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer program relies on the expertise of U.S. volunteers to provide technical assistance to farmers, farm groups and agribusinesses in developing countries to promote sustainable capacity building.  Mr. Adam spent three weeks in Lamego, Mozambique, just south of Gorongosa National Park with Agripel Farmers Association, a group of 32 farmers, 12 female and 20 male who grow vegetables and grain crops on about 230 acres of jointly owned land.  During his 3 week stay, Adam focused on assisting Agripel on basic principles of integrated farm management and crop budget calculations. Emphasis was placed on low or no cost conservation practices such as composting, crop rotation, IPM (integrated pest management), mulching for weed control and accurate record keeping of inputs and returns on crops sold.

“We appreciated Mr. Adam’s low cost approach to improving our crop production” said Maracate Fernando, president of Agripel Association. “Our resources are limited and our margin of profit is very small” he stated. In Southern Africa, the Farmer-to-Farmer program is implemented by CNFA, an international development organization that specializes in enterprise-based agricultural development initiatives designed to facilitate market access, enhance agribusiness competitiveness and improve rural livelihoods in the developing world.  CNFA manages the Farmer-to-Farmer program in Mozambique, Malawi, and Angola.  For more information about the Farmer-to-Farmer program or volunteer opportunities, visit