College of ACES to join in on agricultural education program

The College of ACES, along with four other institutions, is partnering with Catholic Relief Services to join the United States Agency for International Development’s Farmer-to-Farmer Program in four East African countries. 

The Farmer-to-Farmer Program connects American farmers, agribusinessmen and others with knowledge in different agricultural fields with farmers and communities in developing countries around the world. The program, which was authorized in 1985, is funded by the United States Agency for International Development and has been implemented in more than 80 countries since its inception, according to the agency’s website. 

This particular program will take place over the next five years and will offer aid in Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, said Bruce White, the program director for Catholic Relief Services. 

The College of ACES, along with the Food Resource Bank, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, National Association of Agricultural Educators and American Agri-Women, will seek volunteers to travel to these countries.  

“They can help farmers move from subsistence production to getting into higher value commercial activities, for example being able to work towards being a supplier for agribusiness, or for the export market, or even a market in a larger city within that country,” said Rolin Oliver Ferguson, ACES’ international program coordinator, in an email. “This can raise farm incomes and by increasing farmer incomes you can positively impact their household well being.”

Volunteers are placed in the country for a short time and give the farmers a crash course in their specialty. This helps those farmers build long-term plans to improve their practice.

“A lot of times farmers are educated, even ones overseas that have never been to university or school for that,” said Kelsey Day, the communications and resource development coordinator for Food Resource Bank. “They know their land, they know their crops, they know their weather patterns … But of course if you’re a smallholder African farmer who has never been trained in soil science, you might not know about micronutrients or how that affects the yield of the plant.”

White said they are looking for volunteers with a variety of specialties in the agricultural sectors, from professors to farmers to master gardeners. The volunteers do not need overseas experience or many years in the field, as White is hoping to see younger people, including graduate students, apply.

“We are looking for people who basically have some good know-how and good experience in doing agriculture within their setting,” White said. “We’re looking for people who love agriculture and have become successful in their own lives, and we’d like to share that experience.”

Catholic Relief Services received a grant from the Agency for International Development for the program to identify the communities in Africa and their needs. Catholic Relief Services will connect volunteers with local groups that will link the volunteer to their pupils.

White sees this program as a way to help share some of the advancements in agriculture with the rest of the world.

“We have a very diverse agricultural sector in this country, and there are innovations popping up all over the place,” White said, “And what a great way to take some of those innovations, take some of those experiences and share them with our programming overseas and with the communities that we work with.”

In addition to providing technical support, the program helps bring the farmers closer together. 

“The fact that the U.S. farmer, or agribusiness person would come overseas, spend two weeks in the village and really focus on helping someone in a completely different part of the world is also a fairly large piece of encouragement and support that these African farmers will get,” Day said.

Miranda can be reached at [email protected]