Preparing for a Farmer-to-Farmer assignment, my third in Mali and twelfth overall, created a sense of excitement and anticipation. Bara Kassambara, Winrock Country Director for Mali, is a F2F professional who makes every aspect of an assignment go smoothly for volunteers. Over time, Bara and I have become very good friends, beginning with my first trip to Mali in 2011. Bara was even able to visit me here in the U.S. in 2012. Perhaps the greatest value for a Winrock volunteer is the relationships formed while on assignment.
The Scope of Work for my 2017 Mali project used a smart, efficient approach, called Train the Trainers. This approach greatly leverages the knowledge and skills of any volunteer. In 2016 a similar approach was used by me on a previous assignment in Senegal resulting in regional trainers for all of Senegal being trained in one location. This model of training is very cost effective and reaches farmers and small business owners more rapidly than other methods.
The 2017 Mali assignment took my team of pros to four training sites in the south of Mali. At each of the 4 sites, the basics of “Marketing of Agricultural Products” was taught over a 2-3-day schedule, depending on electricity. Crops included cowpeas, par-boiled rice, sesame, and fish. Packaging and branding are almost non-existent for the cooperative members in Mali. Samples of foreign produced products were used to show the impact of packaging, branding, and logos. Without these basic marketing functions being met, advertising cannot take place. Trainers were trained in the basics of sales forecasting, record keeping, costing, pricing, profit & loss calculation, and preparation of a Business Plan to be used for sourcing financing.
Outcome success is measured by evidence of the development of modern packaging, branding, and logos in the marketplace. I cannot give enough praise to my teammates Bara, Fatou, Fatouma, and Hadey. Because of Winrock, I feel more connected to the world and have gotten so much out of volunteering. Americans have so much of what we have been given to give to others.