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.