Story by Nyssa Lilovich
In April 2020, Purdue University’s International Programs in Agriculture (IPIA) and Purdue Cooperative Extension announced the USAID John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program to be implemented by Purdue University in Trinidad and Tobago over the next three years. A United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded program, F2F provides technical assistance from U.S. volunteers to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries.
Due to COVID-19 pandemic travel limitations, the Purdue F2F program has implemented a virtual volunteer assistance strategy to support host groups in Trinidad and Tobago. The virtual assignments will provide both real-time and pre-recorded trainings for the host groups. These assignments are not bound by the traditional 2-3-week timeframe, but rather have a deliverable-based program with a longer timeline. According to Gerald Shively, Associate Dean and Director of International Programs in the College of Agriculture, two assignments have already started working virtually.
“Temporarily switching to virtual assignments allows us to continue working with our host groups to help address their immediate needs. Virtual assignments have never been done in the F2F program, so we’re excited to engage with Trinbagonians using this new approach,” said Amanda Dickson, International Extension Specialist and Farmer-to-Farmer Trinidad & Tobago Program Director.
The first virtual volunteer assignment will provide the Network of Rural Women Producers Trinidad and Tobago (NRWPTT) with training in online event hosting and social media marketing. The NRWPTT, comprised of 60 members and 7 groups, is a national group formed in 1995 to help promote rural women issues and empower women to enhance their economic and social well-being through agriculture and agro-processing. The members of the NRWPTT have been severely affected by the pandemic. With the onset of the pandemic, Trinidad and Tobago agricultural stakeholders have experienced low profitability due to the closure of face-to-face markets to curb the spread of the disease. One of the NRWPTT major fundraising events, The Mango Festival, has been forced to be held online rather than in-person. Many of the members do not possess the skills needed to host and/or promote a virtual event. Through the Farmer-to-Farmer virtual assignment, the women will learn how to set up a virtual market and launch their first virtual event with technical training provided by Crystal Van Pelt, Purdue Extension educator and volunteer from Steuben County.
“This assignment is to help the women transition the annual Mango Festival to a virtual or hybrid format. All of our sessions are occurring over Zoom, so the participants have access to the recordings to reference as they try to implement some of these digital tools. I have been able to use the curriculum from Purdue Extension’s Digital Ready Business program. I am grateful to get the chance to help these women learn skills to help acclimate their businesses to a more digital world,” said Van Pelt.
The second virtual volunteer assignment will assist the agricultural arm of the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) in Tobago. This program has become an empowerment tool for women on the island. Because the members of URP-Tobago have requested technical support to improve vegetable seedling production, Ohio State Extension volunteer, Jacqueline Kowalski, will provide assistance virtually so that the members of the agricultural arm of URP-Tobago will be able to set up their own nursery and manage it effectively to produce healthy and prolific seedlings/young plants.
“One great advantage will be the opportunity to work with the group over an extended period rather than the traditional 2-3 week time frame,” said Kowalski.
"The Farmer-to-Farmer Training will answer the call for training and development by many agricultural stakeholders, farmers and others. This training will certainly be beneficial and timely for many agricultural groups and individual agents who are currently facing challenges due to the pandemic," commented Lorraine Waldropt-Ferguson, Trinidad & Tobago Field Coordinator.
For more information: https://ag.purdue.edu/ipia/Pages/F2F-Trindad-Tobago.aspx
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