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Krista James and Arthur Kneeland, UW-Stout biology department faculty, recently returned from Nicaragua where they volunteered for two weeks with the USAID-funded Partners of the Americas Farmer to Farmer program.
The program provides voluntary technical assistance to farmers, farm groups and agribusinesses in developing and transitional countries to promote sustainable improvements in food security and agricultural processing, production and marketing.
From Jan. 8-21, Kneeland and James worked with field officer Elisa Estrada and Pennsylvania farmer Wayne Baumann to assist small-scale producers in adopting good agricultural practices. Nicaragua hopes to increase exports of agricultural products, a major challenge because of a high risk of food contamination within the agricultural supply chain.
In international markets, Good Agricultural Practices certification schemes have proven to be excellent mechanisms for working with producers to eliminate or reduce any risk of contamination in all stages of production.
In Nicaragua, 2,500 farms are working toward GAP certification, although only about 60 producers from large farms were certified as of October 2011. Certification among small producers has been difficult; most agricultural production in Nicaragua occurs on small farms.
This was the second FTF volunteer experience for James and Kneeland. Last July, James provided educational programming to communities and schools about water quality and integrated pest management. In August, Kneeland volunteered with another faculty member, Charles Bomar, to provide technical assistance with insect identification and integrated pest management.