by Zineb Laadam
HAF Farmer to Farmer program
Kenya’s capital city opened its arms to agriculture organizations throughout Africa at the Farmer-2-Farmer Africa Regional Meeting from June 6-10. Tailored to International Organizations and Implementers (IPs), the conference united organizations from Kenya, Tanzania, Benin, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Egypt, Senegal, and Morocco.
The organizations in attendance included International Executive Service Corps (ISEC), Catholic Relief Service (CRS), Winrock International, Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), and Land O’Lakes Ventures37. The partners of the Americas also attended, bringing with them the Agricultural Volunteer Opportunity Program (AVOP) which includes the Browse and Grass Growers Cooperative in Burkina Faso and the High Atlas Foundation in Morocco.
The meeting sought to identify shared experiences on F2F implementation throughout Africa – volunteer management, COVID impact, and paired/remote assignments, to name a few – and apply takeaways from the Implementers Partners Meeting (IPM) to Africa at large. Leaders also discussed how to share COVID-inspired innovations and balance this emergent technology with current needs, challenges, and experiences of Africa-based F2F programs.
After meeting each other on June 6th, we started with the operating context session: challenges and successes of program implementation in Africa. Each Implementing Partner provided a brief overview of the external factors driving success and creating challenges in F2F implementation, specific to the African context.
The country director of the F2F program in Morocco, Mr. Errachid Mountassir, set an optimistic tone for the conference. In his opening remarks, he lauded Africa’s achievements amidst COVID challenges while paying tribute to the continent’s self-assurance, energy, determination, and commitment at large. The Moroccan F2F program in particular received recognition for its impressive growth. The F2F team also shared their extraordinary experience with the High Atlas Foundation’s IMAGINE program that assists women in finding their voices before launching a F2F assignment.
F2F’s country director delivered an overview of the program in Morocco and the HAF’s work
African’s Host Organizations (HOs) achievements occurred during a period of great uncertainty amidst COVID-19, growing decent work deficits, strong inequalities, persistent poverty, and high levels of youth unemployment. Yet borne of these challenges lie many success stories. Five representatives of HOs from different F2F countries interacted with participants, who then convened to share observations and lessons that apply to the HOs in their core countries.
On June 7, we presented in a round-robin to learn from each other’s success stories and social media strategies, review published stories and analyze their effectiveness. Mr. Errachid Mountassir then facilitated a volunteer management session to understand local volunteer recruitment challenges and opportunities. This session covered various topics of interest for all F2F teams, ranging from local volunteer engagement, successful volunteer assignments both from the hosts and volunteers perspectives, and the key challenges for assignment design.
F2F’s country director of Morocco facilitated a volunteer management session
The second half of the F2F Africa regional meeting started at a farmer’s field outside Nairobi on June 8. Four host options provided, and the participants choose which location they wish to visit.
The F2F Moroccan team traveled three hours from Nairobi to the CAP Youth Empowerment Institute (CAPYEI), a Kenyan NGO that works to provide agro-business and employability skills training while supporting vulnerable young populations.
One of CAP’s managers Ms. Carol reflected that “In doing this work, CAPYEI has developed and tested a model called Basic Employability skills training (BEST) that bears close similarity to the principles of the competency-based education and training framework by the government of Kenya.”
We walked strawberry fields and did a soil texture test with our hands. We also inspected the wonderful greenhouses and located some of the pests and weeds that have presented problems for the youth farmers.
F2F Africa teams with the CAP Youth Empowerment Institute members in the strawberry field
Mr. Ndungu Kahihu, the executive director of CAPYEI who has over 30 years of experience in international development, explained how any technical skills provider can help to support youth who otherwise face significant access barriers. Yet, the CAP of youth farmers are motivated and ready to make changes in their farming practices through the F2F program. They have thoughtfully curated their client base and are confident that they have a market for their organic produce. Yet the road ahead may not be easy: the farmers face barriers such as lack of water, sources of organic seed, education on the use of organic fertilizers and pesticides, and the education of other youth who are reluctant to change their current situations
Even so, the underlying trend is positive. All of these challenges can be summed up in one simple African proverb: “It always seems impossible until it is done.” Yes, it was the first time we went there but it was not that hard to adjust to its atmosphere and establish good connections with the youth farmers.
We had passed through the system successfully and this field trip was the official occasion that ushered us to the real world in Kenya. Nothing could spoil the fun for me on this day. It was my special day that was bound to occur only once and I was therefore determined to make the best of it.
June 9 was the last day of the F2F Africa regional meeting in Kenya, but the first day to think together about the sustainability of the F2F program in Africa at large. More specifically, we sought to identify solutions to the most pressing challenges IPs face in their core countries.
Over games and discussion, we interactively reviewed the lessons reaped from our gathering. Implementers were also given an opportunity to raise issues of importance that they would like to consider in FY 2023.
F2F teams and Implementers translating challenges into actions session
In their closing statement, Ms Peggy Carlson from USAID declaration: Transforming Africa through decent work for Sustainable development , governments, employers, workers from African countries, Host organizations have underlined the importance of full and productive employment and decent work for inclusive and sustainable development in creating new expanded opportunities and responsibilities for constituents and the Organization as a whole in national, regional and global policy making.
Attending the F2F Africa regional meeting in Nairobi was truly a wonderful experience. Through the fast-paced workshops and discussions, I received exactly what I needed to improve my field work with the F2F program in Morocco.
The conference is still fresh in my mind and I can recollect everything that happened on those unforgettable days. We all know how meetings are important to us as teams. It was a landmark meeting that marks the end of a cycle, just like a graduation.
Although learning and work never ends, this meeting marks the end of those grueling days we spent to make the F2F project a success for decades to come.