One of the strengths and benefits of the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program is that the volunteers and local host organizations often develop and maintain strong relationships long after the volunteer assignment ends. Our July Volunteer of the Month, Judy Moses, is a wonderful example of this.
Judy, a member of the Browse & Grass Growers Cooperative in Wisconsin, has volunteered with Winrock six times since 2010, supporting a few different farmers associations in Mali and Guinea. On subsequent trips to the same country, she builds in time to check in on her previous host organizations, and over the years she has formed a deep mutual respect and friendship with both her beneficiaries and the local Winrock staff. As a result of these connections and a deep commitment to improving the lives of African farmers, Judy recently won a small grant award to manage her own Farmer-to-Farmer program in Mali!
We asked Judy to reflect on her prior experiences as a F2F volunteer. She shares her thoughts below:
What inspired you to begin volunteering with F2F?
Another volunteer recommended and connected me to an Ethiopian assignment in about 2006. I did a sheep and goat assessment through the highlands. To have a landrover, driver, translator, and huge detailed map was just totally amazing. I still have and prize that map. It was a number of years before I had the opportunity to volunteer again, and that was in Mali.
What have been some of the most memorable moments from your various volunteer assignments?
I have raised livestock for almost three decades, and I still learn something new and amazing about sheep and goats every year. During the last several years, a significant part of my learning has involved volunteer assignments. We (cooperative members) struggle, just like other producers, with lambing deaths, balancing rations, pasture watering systems, cost controls, labor availability, implementing and maintaining appropriate conservation programs. Do these experiences transfer to such a faraway place as Africa? We have found that they do. There are more similarities between us than differences.
One of my trainees in Lofine, Mali [so beautifully] said, “The light of the sun and the light of the moon together are not as bright as the light of the knowledge you brought to this village!”
Another trainee, in Dladie, Mali, told me, “Come back! We will show you how we listened… how we will apply this. Even if I am called in the middle of the night to attend a training, I would now hurry to do so!
How could I not come back?
What inspired you to apply for the F2F small grant?
I wanted to go beyond farmer helping farmer to cooperative helping cooperative. Information on the F2F grant came into my email box, and I noticed our cooperative actually qualified. We had a conference call discussion on whether the cooperative wanted to take on the responsibility of such a project. Being first of all farmers, none of our members have discretionary income or time, and global activities certainly aren’t in our bylaws. But our members did feel a connection to the villagers I volunteered with, so I was given the “ok” to proceed with caution. I then contacted former Winrock staff in Mali, and they were excited. The former Winrock F2F project director in Mali contacted Winrock’s Director of Volunteer Technical Assistance in the US, and she offered her support. The Winrock recruiter I worked with the most had retired, but she offered her support at no-cost. At this point, we committed. Having this critical support convinced the hesitant members that if funded, we could actually implement. It would have been not only difficult but impossible to do this project without the former Winrock F2F staff’s support and eagerness to participate. They are the heart of this project. I am only facilitating resources so they can succeed.
We have named the project Common Pastures: Sustaining Flocks, Farms, and Families. As with our cooperative in the US, it is devoted to the art and science of integrating animals, trees, shrubs, crops, and pasture.