FAMU granted $1.6M for international project

The U.S. Agency for International Development awarded the Florida A&M Office of International Agriculture a $1.6 million contract. 

The contract will be used for the Farmer to Farmer (FTF) program in South Africa. The program provides voluntary assistance to farmers, farm groups and agribusinesses in developing countries. The money will directly benefit small and medium scale historically disadvantaged farmers in South Africa.

“This is the second contract that we have gotten from the Agency for International Development,” said Harriet Paul, program director.  “The new contract provides us with another four years to build on the success that we’ve already achieved in South Africa.

Paul said the first contract was a five-year program funded by the USAID for $1.5 million. More than 80 percent of those recipients indicated their lives were changed and their income substantially increased 

“By helping these farmers we also improved nutrition and diets in the household,” Paul said. “We were able to send children to school and 80 percent of the women involved indicated that their roles in business had improved.”

The FTF program recruits agricultural, environmental and business professionals to assist clients living primarily in rural areas. 

According to the USAID Web site, the FTF Program was initially authorized by Congress in the 1985 Farm Bill and has provided direct hands-on training to 80,000 people.  More than 12,000 volunteer assignments have been completed in over 80 countries and 43 percent of all individuals trained by FTF volunteers are women.

“We just secured our first two volunteers,” said Mark Taylor, communications specialist, who is working closely with the project. “The volunteers will be going to South Africa at the University of Forth Hare.  They will assist the farmers that work with the university and the surrounding community.” 

The volunteers will conduct a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis to develop better business plans and implement the contract.

Research Associate at South Dakota State University, Yonas Hamda, is one of two men hired to carry out the program in South Africa. 

“FAMU offered me the opportunity,” Hamda said. “This allows me to help out by teaching workshops that will help facilitate good decision making tools.” 

Farmer to Farmer is a hands-on program where the volunteers work alongside farmers to expand market channels, strengthen entrepreneurial skills and increase production efficiencies all within environmentally friendly production practices.

Building institutional relationships between Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the U.S. and similar institutions in South Africa is another benefit gained from the Farmer to Farmer program.

“Students can certainly play an important role in this program,” Paul said.

Getting involved can strengthen the performance of the universities by supporting the advancement of rural historically disadvantaged individuals.

“In fact, there may be a number of opportunities particularly for graduate students and fourth-year undergraduates to participate in the program in South Africa,” Paul said. 

The Web site also states that the program also offers technical assistance to agricultural groups and has potential to largely contribute to the economic growth in the rural areas of South Africa.