From Plane Tickets to On-the-ground Impacts
As a Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) recruiter, my role is to find volunteer agriculture experts that can provide the most positive and measurable impacts to our assignments. I receive the greatest job satisfaction hearing about the volunteers’ experiences and reading the updates from the field staff on impacts. However, it isn’t often that recruiters are able to witness these impacts first-hand. I recently had the opportunity to travel to Myanmar and Nepal to do just that.
In Myanmar, we visited two Farmer-to-Farmer host organizations, which provide assistance in livelihood development for local women in Pindaya and Nyaung Shwe. We then travelled to several villages to meet with the female participants of soap making and business management assignments to see how they were utilizing their training. What struck me was the hospitality shown during each visit. There wasn’t a meeting that didn’t involve green tea and delicious local snacks. We listened to the women’s stories of their opportunities and challenges in starting new businesses, while we munched on rice cakes and fried potatoes. They were excited to share their successes in making new soap products using avocado, tomatoes, lotus pollen, coffee, etc. A few groups eagerly presented their meticulous business management records that were created based on the F2F volunteer’s advice. The women’s groups agreed their ultimate goal was to see sustained profits and business growth. Many of these groups are already well on their way to achieving those goals.
While in Nepal, we traveled to Ramechhap district to meet with youth entrepreneurs who benefited from F2F training on business management. Entrepreneurship seems to come naturally to the people we spoke to. They work hard and have an eye for market opportunities. F2F training helped them build confidence to invest and make informed business decisions. We toured the plant nursery of one of the participants. His enthusiasm was infectious. He is proud of his successes, and the way he has grown his business after applying the techniques he learned in training. He wants to help other young people in his area and surrounding districts to experience the same. The sense of collectiveness in Nepal is inspiring. One can see that even the smallest amount of assistance can and will be replicated to build rural economies.
In my role, it can be difficult not to view volunteer assignments in terms of flights booked, visas received, travel advances sent, and paperwork completed. It is easy to get lost in the minutiae of recruiting and mobilizing volunteers. Seeing these assignments and their impacts through the lens of a volunteer and the participant has heightened my sense of pride for the Farmer-to-Farmer program, Winrock’s field staff, and the work we do at headquarters.