Beekeeper and graduate student at the University of Florida's Beekeeping program, Michael Drankwalter, recently traveled to Guatemala to offer his knowledge on beehive management, and the production and marketing of value-added honey products. Michael's workroom for the majority of his volunteer trip
was at the FECCEG headquarters. The Federacion
Comericializadora de Café Especial de Guatemala (FECCEG) is an organization that is formed by 13 small coffee cooperatives and spreads across six Guatemalan
departments. FECCG is a member of the successful Kishé Foods LLC. Kishé coffee
sells roasted coffee from Guatemala directly to consumers and coffee retailers
in the United States. The company's operations
and processing are developed in California, but the company management is based
in the city of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. There are
many Kishé coffee shops that are sprouting up around Guatemala (one volunteer called them the Starbucks of Central America). However, what sets Kishé apart is its
dedication to local and fair trade ingredients.
Kishé makes other products with their
locally sourced products as well including muffins,cookies, soaps, and, of course, honey products. Michael helped FECCEG create value-added products from honey like flavored honey straws, soaps and skin balm using other ingredients like pollen and propolis. Propolis is known as bee glue for its highly adhesive qualities but also for its healing abilities in soaps and other natural skincare products.
Michael also helped the team check the moisture content of the sample honey from the
beekeepers to see if they were consistent with the data that was sent to the
organization. He also had the opportunity to visit an apiary near
the Pacific South Coast to inspect a few hives. During this time, he was able to meet a
fellow beekeeper named Mario who owns about 150 beehives. There, he led a training
of beehive management and maintenance, queen rearing, pest and disease management
and honey production. Looking forward, participants
of Michael's workshops should now have a better understanding of how to properly maintain and manage their beehives in order to improve the quality of their honey products.
and wife, Barry Evans and Louisa Rogers, traveled to Nicaragua as F2F volunteers to conduct interactive workshops for Junior Achievement Nicaragua (JA) to help them improve their educational processes and
teaching methodologies. JA is a non-profit educational organization that
promotes economic education from an early age and empowers young leaders to be
proactive in their own development, both personally and professionally. It
implements business education programs aimed at children and adolescents, young
women, and female heads of household.
Louisa Rogers conducted interactive workshops on entrepreneurship, leadership, life skills,
career planning, and teamwork. The JA youth also developed individual projects
and presented in front of the group and on social media. As an experienced world as
a training consultant, Louisa was able to effectively share her teaching methods in entrepreneurship, leadership, management, and conflict resolution to participants. Through her training, JA youth
entrepreneurs gained substantial training in leadership and
entrepreneurship that should help them to develop their projects and become
effective leaders in their communities.
Meanwhile, Barry Evans worked
with the Junior Achievement facilitators to strengthen their capacity to train
youth entrepreneurs, particularly on how to organize, work collaboratively, communicate
effectively, lead, and ultimately run small businesses. Evans led a variety of
lectures and trainings on organizational and enterprise leadership development
aimed at youth. The topics were related to organizational governance, formation
of by-laws, generating business plans for micro-enterprises, business
development strategies, conflict resolution, and negotiation skills. Barry has
an extensive knowledge of teaching as well as practical professional experience in developing marketing strategies through his work in photography, marketing, and website design. His knowledge has now equipped JA facilitators
to replicate the trainings with youth entrepreneurs throughout the region.
By Jan Surface, F2F Volunteer in the Dominican Republic
This past January, F2F volunteer, Jan Marie Surface traveled
to the Dominican Republic, where she worked with Plan Yaque on recommendations
to improve water quality within the Yaque del Norte watershed. Plan Yaque is a non-governmental
institution that combines efforts between the State and Civil Society for the
protection, conservation, and sustainable management of natural resources of
the Yaque del Norte River Basin. Its fundamental purpose is to contribute to
regional and national development towards the construction of a better and
sustainable quality of life in the Dominican Republic.
During her stay, Jan Marie provided examples on how to set up photo-monitoring points;
a list of references for best management practices to improve water quality,
tips for writing grants, equipment recommendations for their new water quality
lab, and UV treatment recommendations.
One of the
highlights of her trip, was meeting
with Williams Hernandez (Plan Yaque Coordinator of Water and Sanitation
see a septic tank plus wetland cell treatment system currently under construction
for sewage treatment at the newly constructed relocation community for families
who are currently living illegally in a National Park. Fifty-two houses have
been constructed for 350 people and each family will be provided 629m2
of land for agricultural production.
septic tank under construction [Right] Jan
Marie Surface (blue hat on left) discusses system with Williams Hernandez (Plan
Yaque; orange hard hat) and resident workers
The wastewater treatment
system for the project is designed as a gravity flow system starting with a 6 cells
septic tank to settle out all the solids and begin anaerobic digestion. The
liquid waste will then flow through a constructed wetland consisting of a
gravel substrate and vetiver plants. The wetland treatment system was sized
(load calculations) and designed by Plan Yaque staff. As designed, the
treatment system will address nutrient issues, but it will not treat bacteria.
Jan Marie researched alternatives for providing tertiary Ultra Violet bacteria
treatment and provided those recommendations to Plan Yaque.
Hernandez (Plan Yaque) and Jan Marie Surface (F2F volunteer) discuss wetland
treatment system [Right] Wetland
cell has been leveled and is ready for gravel substrate and plants.
Jan Surface is a watershed planning specialist at the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Little Rock, Arkansas. This was her second F2F trip to the Dominican Republic and assignment with Plan Yaque on this topic.
F2F volunteer, Bryce Malsbary, an international business development expert, traveled to Colombia in January of this year to offer his business
expertise to natural cosmetic company, Zen Naturals. Based in Cali, Colombia, Zen Naturals sources their natural ingredients from the nearby Department of Cauca. Zen Naturals works directly with the Paez indigenous communities that grow the quinoa used in many of their products. As their business continues to expand, they have maintained their core values of ethical manufacturing, fair trade practices and loyalty to producer communities. The goal of this assignment was to help Zen Naturals with
their business strategies to positively affect sales and to efficiently aim their
marketing efforts. Bryce held brainstorming and training sessions that helped employees to accomplish this task. The training activities included both individual and group meetings to evaluate which actions were needed to improve product and outreach strategies, particularly for their Zue beauty line. Bryce helped members of the Zue team better define their roles and responsibilities to improve the management and organizational structure.
Bryce also led various workshops on how to improve business
development efforts that foster lasting relationships with customers.Through these trainings, the teams were also able to discover how to monitor competition
and perform analysis on new and existing markets to better target customer
demographics. Zue has already launched an E-Commerce sales
program to promote and sell Zue products through social media.
Overall, Bryce is
confident that Zue will be successful and believes that their Zue line are both quality products and showcase the company's focus on protecting the environment and being socially
conscious. As the natural
skincare market continues to grow, it will be exciting to see what strategies Zen Naturals will develop to drive them even further towards success!
Read more about Zen Naturals' Zue products through their website and Twitter page here: https://www.zuebeauty.com/ @zuebeauty
I’m thrown into a world of chaos: the smell of diesel, heaps of
traffic-impeding garbage, pigs and goats feasting freely—extreme poverty.
Though I have traveled to farming communities throughout Latin America, I had
never seen such hardship.My
assignment with Partners of the Americas brought me to Cap-Haitien, the
original capital of Haiti. I was debriefed upon arrival. The Partners’ USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program appointed me to serve as a Coffee Production
Specialist. My expertise was
needed to survey coffee production, implement agricultural management
strategies, and train the local co-op (including farmers, extension agents, and
university students). I was optimistic about how my assignment would unfold,
who I would meet, and what I would learn.
On day 1, I made
the rutted, 2-hour journey south through the Nord department to visit the co-op
of Association des Travailleurs de Dondon (ATD). In Dondon, I was first
acquainted with Haitian coffee. I got straight to work surveying two forested
coffee plots. It was mid-December 2017, roughly a month after harvest. The
first plot reflected this and was virtually devoid of fruit. It was well
managed. By contrast, the second plot was nearly inaccessible. The bend of a
small river framed in this peninsula on three sides. The remaining side was
banded by a cactus fence. This formidable layout made me pause to consider how
the women of Dondon traverse this section while balancing buckets brimming with
coffee cherry. I took field counts of both plots. The latter plot was clearly
in distress. Roughly 75% of the leaves displayed signs of disease, and there
were high counts of unharvested cherry. This neglected fruit was infested with
coffee berry borer (CBB) or “eskolit” in Haitian Creole. My survey revealed the
urgency of including CBB control strategies in my trainings over the coming
Training ATD began
with a nursery construction project to address problems with root development.
While we worked, I probed the group about their concerns with eskolit. Were
they aware of the threats posed by CBB? Did they struggle to control the
beetle? Were there barriers to successful CBB management? It turned out, ATD
was well aware of CBB. They had seen up to 25% loss and even knew,
theoretically, how to create CBB traps made from recycled materials. However,
the co-op members had heard a pheromone attractant was required as bait but
didn’t have access to it. To overcome this limitation, I offered a solution
based on my review of the literature. I explained, a 3:1 ethanol/methanol mixture is proven to
be effective bait. Since the alcohols may still be hard to find, I
recommended the ATD co-op members experiment with readily available
alternatives, like fermented fruit juices or honey. Even more importantly, beyond
the traps, I stressed that management practices were the first line of defense
against CBB. To reinforce this message, we put theory into practice by cleaning
high priority fields.
With all of our efforts a question arose, “What options do I have if
my neighbors are mismanaging their CBB infestation?” I explained that the traps
also indicate population count and direction of emergence. Equipped with that
information, they could engage their coffee producing neighbors. With the right
tools, vigilant management, and open dialog they were ready to tackle CBB
losses, which would in turn lead to prosperity for their whole community.
Nearing the end of my assignment, I came upon an important revelation.
Before arriving in Haiti, I couldn’t imagine what I would teach veterans of 30+
years about their livelihoods, yet my time in Dondon helped me to realize an
important link between the technician and the farmer. The technician works in a
realm that is all theory and the farmer, all practice. For the future of coffee—and all agriculture—to be sustainable,
there must be a bridge connecting the two. The USAID and F2F enabled me to be
that missing link bridging a knowledge gap. At Re:co, I will have the opportunity
to build many more connections with those of diverse professional and
cultural backgrounds. Such connections are bound to result in discovery, elevating the
future of specialty coffee for us all.
Nathan King worked
with a leading supplier of high quality cacao in the Dominican Republic,
Zorzal Cacao, to establish fermentation protocols that will improve cacao quality and ultimately increase its marketability in the lucrative global chocolate market.
Nathan has an extensive
knowledge of Reserva Zorzal as he has worked as both a bird researcher and technical consultant for them in the past. On this assignment, Nathan set out to produce higher
quality beans by improving the fermentation process and consistency so that
there are less undesirable beans in the sorting stage. He also collaborated with the Zorzal team to design and
build an electronic monitoring and logging system to closely manage the fermentation
and drying processes.
During this process,
Nathan used cacao elements that are typically waste products to study how it affects
the taste. Esters, components used for flavor, are increased at higher temperatures and add quality to the finished chocolate product. He believes that
there will be a new interest in studying the fermentation stage to positively affect
the flavor of the cacao. By focusing on flavor development during the fermentation stage, the host organization can potentially add exotic flavors and avoid having to add them in the final stages of chocolate-making.
Nathan is optimistic that customers of
Zorzal Cacao will be pleased by these improved cacao processing procedures that will result in a higher quality product. For future assignments, he recommended a focus on investigating different sustainable methods
for inoculating cacao as well as the effects of external factors like temperature on the fermentation process. Through Nathan's training, other local cacao farmers will also be able to improve their fermentation processes and produce more climate-resistant and high quality cacao.
This past December, F2F volunteer, Melanie
Forstrom traveled to Nicaragua, where she conducted interactive workshops for Junior Achievement Nicaragua (JA) facilitators
and trainers to improve educational processes and teaching methodologies. JA is a
non-profit educational organization that is present in more than 120 countries. The goal of the organization is to promote economic education from an early age and empower young leaders to be proactive in their own development, both personally and professionally. It implements business education
programs aimed at children and adolescents, young women, and female heads of
Melanie Forstom earned her Master’s degree in Conflict Transformation from the School for International Training and has spent countless years working with at-risk youth in a variety of different locations and programs throughout the United States. She currently leads youth development programming in Ulster Country through the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s 4-H Youth Development Program.
The experiential learning method is renowned for being effective in youth engagement programs and avidly used by Melanie in her 4-H programs. Melanie demonstrated her teaching method by directly engaging with facilitators, trainers and participants to integrate this teaching method in a variety of activities and games. This style of teaching entails engaging in an activity and then asking reflective questions to speak about the skills that were applied during the activity.
Junior Achievement Supervisor, Ana Carolina, was a vital workshop participant as she is equipped with invaluable
observation tools to ensure that facilitators are as efficient as
possible during programs. Melanie created activity and program manuals in Spanish that facilitators can use to ensure the utmost preparedness.
In the next few months, Partners' Farmer-to-Farmer program will continue working with JA to build on Melanie's assistance and help the organization continue to strengthen their youth empowerment and entrepreneurship programs.
In December, Mark
Willuhn traveled to western Guatemala to work with smallholder farmers who have been
searching for ways to diversify their income sources and expand into the
agrotourism industry. Mark worked with an organization called
FECCEG which is a federation formed by 35 organic coffee farmers. He first surveyed the farms to assess the potential for agrotourism market and then began working with FECCEG staff to develop an agrotourism implementation plan.
Mark also developed a Visitor Management and Tourism Development Plan with FECCEG staff to begin construction and marketing strategies immediately. He believes that social media will be vital to spark the interest of local and world markets to the beauty and potential of the region as a place to visit.
[Left] Fresh bags of coffee being stored before shipment [Right] Five visitor cabanas were constructed in El Vergel
An FECCEG federation advertisement. Translation: "Together we can go further"
Mark has extensive knowledge in sustainable tourism as he currently serves as the Executive Director at Alianza Mesoamericana de Ecotourismo which is a company that links visitors that are eager to help conserve protected areas within countries in Mesoamerica. Since Mark avidly travels to
Mesoamerica, he is excited by the opportunity to check in on FECCEG and see how
the farms are reaching their goals. Looking forward, Mark is optimistic that the region will generate income for the local communities through the growth of this sustainable agrotourism market.
View on El Sendero Catarata (The Waterfall Trail) where Mark saw great potential for agrotourism to be developed
Credit for all photos goes to Mark Willuhn. If you are interested in ecotourism in Mesoamerica here is a link to Mark's website: https://exploremesoamerica.com/
Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer, Andy Lohof, offered his business expertise this past December to help build the strategic management and business planning skills of a local farmers association. He specifically assisted the Association des Travallleurs de Dondon (ATD) in drafting a business plan that will make them economically competitive in the local and world economy. Andy organized and led group
exercises and workshops to combine various inputs from the participants and ultimately create a new business plan that will improve efficiency and increase yields.
Workshop participants taking a group photo with Andy
[Left] Andy recording ideas from workshop participants during a brainstorming session [Right] Participants actively engaging in an exercise
Andy was a volunteer on this very same project back in 2014, and was moved to see that the President of ATD had already invoked some of the business management recommendations he had made.
While Andy advised ATD on ways they could improve their business
model during this recent assignment, another Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer, Sarah Brinkley, was able to advise
the company on ecological improvements that will improve coffee processing operations. Sarah was also able to share her knowledge about
composting as well as pest and disease management strategies. Efforts such as these on the part of the volunteers have truly made a difference on the ground level operations.
Looking forward, Andy is optimistic about the future of coffee
production in the various coffee cooperatives around Haiti and within ATD itself.
He is optimistic that the new business plan as well
as the efforts put forth by other volunteers will help to make ATD successful.
November 2017, I had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala and volunteer as a
food toxicologist for the F2F program. The main organization I worked with,
Industria Panelera de Guatemala (IPAGUA), produces dulce panela, using a manufacturing technique that is the first of
its kind in Guatemala. The process of making panela, which includes boiling cane
sugar at high temperatures, can generate acrylamide. Worldwide, acrylamide is a
food toxin with rising concern, as it has been classified as a probable human
carcinogen, and is present in a lot of commonly-consumed foods (e.g., french
fries, potato chips, toasted bread, coffee). Research on acrylamide formation in
panela is limited, and Guatemala currently does not have an in-country
laboratory that can reliably measure acrylamide in food products. As such, the
purpose of this assignment was to help determine which stages of the panela
manufacturing process generates the most acrylamide (with the goal of minimizing
acrylamide formation), and to help laboratories develop an analytical method
for analyzing acrylamide in food products.
[Left] Pablo (on the
board of directors of IPAGUA) and Angela, a food engineer from Federacion
Comercializadora de Café Especial de Guatemala (FECCEG), in the early mornings
of the sugar cane harvest and juicing, which occurs just before start of
processing. [Right] Starting the fire
Fabi, a senior
chemist, preparing an analytical standard
is a staple sugar in Latin American diets, yet little is known about this food elsewhere.
The process of its manufacture is simple yet mesmerizing to watch. At IPAGUA’s
factory, the process starts with harvesting the sugar cane, followed by
extraction of the cane juice, and boiling of the juice. It’s a tricky, almost intuitive
process. “Starting the fire is considered the most important job in the entire
factory”, they tell me, “It has to be the right temperature [for boiling] or
else the entire process won’t work.” After the final boiling, the sugar is
pulverized into dulce panela, which
resembles finely-powdered brown sugar. The sugar cane pulp is laid out and
dried, and used as fuel for the fire the next day. IPAGUA’s factory can make up
to 0.8 to 1T of panela per day, and 250T per year.
spending time at the panela factory, I met with analytical experts at
Universidad de San Carlos, Universidad del Valle, and private laboratory in
Guatemala to work on developing an analytical method to analyze acrylamide in panela.
Some of the staff had been working there for decades, were experts in
analytical toxicology, and committed to seeing this project through for the
benefit of their country. I also presented on acrylamide to a public university
audience, and to the export industry. After my presentations, I received all kinds of questions, with people wanting to know what foods they should start avoiding, to if acrylamide will be an issue in their company’s biscuits and bread products. Although the health effects of acrylamide for humans are still unclear, starting the conversation is the first step in driving interest in studying acrylamide, especially as it pertains to Latin American diets. For me, this assignment has been a great learning experience, not only on panela, but also on the welcoming people and vibrant culture in Guatemala. Hopefully this visit will have propelled further understanding of acrylamide in Guatemala, to benefit consumers, researchers, and the food industry.
Meeting some staff members at the Universidad del Valle
Presenting on acrylamide
to a public audience at the Faculty of Pharmacy of the Universidad de San
Read Full Article
Read for later
Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
Scroll to Top
Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.