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Winrock International

Volunteer Post

Humbled by Farmers’ Commitment

F2F Volunteer, Daniel Laney

This week’s blog comes from F2F volunteer, Daniel Laney, who trained 45 farmers (80% female) in Nepal on improved goat management techniques.

I have recently returned from Nepal where I served as a Winrock International/USAID Farmer to Farmer volunteer in the Surkhet area of the country. This marked my 17th trip to Nepal, but my first as a Winrock volunteer. When I started on this particular journey back in October 2016, I had no idea of exactly how much of an impact this assignment would have on my life. I have a deep appreciation for this beautiful country and the warm and gracious Nepali people that spans more than twenty-seven years. Over that time, it has become like my second home even though I have traveled to many other parts of our globe and enjoyed all that I have experienced. But we each have those special places we have visited that seem to call out to us and almost demand a closer look. Nepal is that place for me….and it still has that magical allure even after so many returns.

So while I was definitely excited to be heading back to Nepal, I was also a little unsure of what to expect as this was going to be a little different adventure than any of my earlier trips. In the previous 16 visits I pretty much made the trip up as I went along…..exploring regions, meeting with the locals and directing my own daily travels. Working as a Winrock volunteer was a little different. I was given an assignment with specific course outcomes….plenty of fact sheets and guidelines….and an interpreter! This was all a new experience for me. The pre-assignment information turned out to be extremely helpful and my Winrock contact person here stateside, Abby Phillips, was a jewel! All of this new-found support and guidance was impressive to say the least and sort of “raised the bar” for me. I was also excited for this opportunity to combine my passion for Nepal and my passion of goats by being accepted by my host group, Sundar Nepal Sanstha (Beauty Nepal Association, BNA). I was to conduct a training session that would support youth entrepreneurship by providing training on farm/shed management, parasite/disease management, fodder, forage and feeding techniques for nutrition and breed management I definitely did not want to disappoint the young goat farmers of Surkhet!

Daniel Laney observes as groups plan and draw out improved farm/shed designs

Once I arrived into Kathmandu, I was under the watchful eye of Winrock’s field agent, Vrigu Duwadi….every bit as helpful and supportive as Abby. Soon I found myself heading off to Surkhet with my interpreter, Arun! We improvised the sessions daily as there was no electricity available. It actually helped to create a more “hands-on” approach and we engaged the farmers in activities in which everyone participated and shared…a true “farmer to farmer” experience! But the real unique and personal impact of that volunteer assignment hit home for me while we were visiting some of the participants’ farm sites on the last day. I realized just how far the farmers had walked to attend the sessions. Everyone was present, happily engaged and actively participating every day, even though many had walked for miles in the early morning hours over rugged terrain, then retracing their steps as they headed home. I was truly humbled by their commitment to improve their herds and thankful that I was able to be a part of the great work Winrock volunteers do all over Asia.

Daniel Laney examining the goat’s health