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Winter 2000

Winter 2000

State Entomologist Helps Trinidad Save Forests

Because of a large influx of imported timber and new efforts to establish tree farming, forests in Trinidad are at risk from imported pests. To help alleviate this risk, three Caribbean organizations requested assistance and training for two workshops in November 2000.

Retired state entomologist Dr. Robert Woodruff, Gainesville, taught the courses for the organizations. The first course dealt with insect curation and collection management. Woodruff has more than thirty years of experience and has conducted extensive research in the Caribbean region.

Fourteen participants from various local institutions attended the insect collection course that included classroom instruction and fieldwork. Woodruff also offered advanced training for agriculture inspection officials in the identification of beetles intercepted in imported lumber as follow-up for earlier training.

"Both courses should strengthen the taxonomic resources available in Trinidad," Woodruff noted. This will enable technicians to more promptly and accurately identify pests. This is the first line of defense to protect the agriculture industry, on which the population is greatly dependent."

Woodruff added that cooperation has been established with specialists at the Florida Department of Agriculture in Gainesville to assist in identifications. In addition, library materials are being donated to the Ministry of Agriculture library.

Dr. Ronald Barrow, technical coordinator of CARINET, a not-for-profit network of 13 Caribbean community members dedicated to the identification of animals and plants, hosted the first workshop.

"The participants at the workshop expressed their appreciation for the training they received. As in all cases, it was relevant to their needs as curators of their respective insect collections," Barrow said. "Bob’s expertise and his ability to communicate his knowledge was in no small measure responsible for the interest awakened and sustained by the participants. We surely hope that this partnership will continue."

Harry Ramlal, director of research with the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources, Trinidad and Tobago, and Wayne De Chi of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture Caribbean Regional Office in Trinidad and Tobago, requested the advanced training course for a targeted group of agricultural inspection officials.


US Embassy Hosts Haiti Solar Seminar

The Solar Energy Group of Haiti is a group of business people, government representatives, related organizations, educators and citizens interested in developing solar as an environmentally friendly source of energy for their country.

There are no fossil fuels naturally found in Haiti, and imported fuels are very expensive. In addition, the country’s dependence on charcoal for cooking has led to a depletion of the country’s forestry resources.

To help alleviate the problems, from November 7 through 12, 2000, FAVA/CA consultant William Young, a research engineer at the University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center, provided operating instructions, lessons and demonstrations on construction and use of solar ovens and water distillation devices using local materials.

"Members of the organization were already interested in solar energy and became more inspired as they learned more about the capability of the technology to resolve some of their energy problems," Young reported. "The solar seminar expanded the organization’s knowledge and understanding of solar and renewable energy."

Young also made several recommendations to promote renewable energy in Haiti, including overview seminars, programs at the universities, application studies, demonstrations and a loan program to help cover the high capital cost of solar development.

The US Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, hosted the FAVA/CA technical assistance and training in alternative sources of energy.


FSU Consultant Helps Nicaragua Web Site

Nicaraguan Sustainable Development Network (SDN) has seen a tremendous growth of interest in the Internet and in web design skills since the program’s inception. But with a full-time staff of three, they found it difficult to meet the demand for basic courses and site improvement. The organization came to FAVA/CA for assistance in providing training.

In July 2000, FAVA/CA volunteer Kim Thompson, a Florida State University graduate student who recently completed her studies in Information Management, consulted with SDN staff on updating their web site. She also designed and taught a course on basic web design to 11 members of the Network. The participants were workers at the SDN and other affiliates of the SDN who use the organization’s computers and server.

"Once the workshops began, I could assess their actual needs and we tailored the workshops accordingly, making changes to the presentations in the evening after the workshops," she said. In addition, Thompson stayed in the lab after each session to help any students who wished to continue practicing what they had learned.

The trip had some exciting moments, Thompson recalled, especially when a slight earthquake occurred about halfway through the workshop. AI asked the attendees if they wanted a break, but they said that if they died, they wanted to die knowing how to cut and paste images into their web pages so we continued," she reported.

José Ignacio López Silva, director of the SDN, said the month-long training and consultation helped his organization to advance technologically. "Overall, we consider Kim’s work on this project as excellent. We now have a tested methodology that will allow the Sustainable Development Network of Nicaragua to offer courses in HTML and web page design. These courses will generate substantial resources for our organization," he said. "I hope that we can work together on other topics in the future."


FAVA/CA - IICA Collaborate On Health, Safety Training

The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) hosted a series of workshops on the practical applications of World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) from October 30 to November 3, 2000 in Barbados, Grenada & Tobago.

University of Florida Assistant Professor Dr. Suzanne Thornsbury, from the Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce, gave presentations on the economics of SPS regulations to nearly 100 agricultural officials and private sector attendees.

"The workshops enhanced recognition by industry, regulatory agencies and agricultural ministry officials of the implications for compliance with WTO agreements and the need for institutional adjustments to achieve compliance," Thornsbury reported.

Thornsbury and Sandra Vokaty, co-ordinator for agricultural health and safety of the IICA Caribbean Regional Centre in Trinidad, conducted a seminar in Barbados as well as one in Grenada. Thornsbury then conducted a smaller discussion in Trinidad and another seminar in Tobago.

"The support that IICA has been able to receive from FAVA/CA in the Caribbean has been phenomenal, in general. All the technical specialists that we have worked with through FAVA/CA have been tremendously helpful, and Dr. Suzanne Thornsbury is no exception," Vokaty said.

"I must say that Dr. Thornsbury’s economic perspective on SPS measures was fresh and fascinating. It was a pleasure to work with her, she added a welcome dimension to our team, and we are already planning to collaborate on follow-up work," she continued.

According to Vokaty, the interesting part of this series of seminars was that, although they were repeating the same information in each country, the audiences and therefore the responses were very different.

"This gave us the opportunity to discuss SPS and agricultural trade issues from many different perspectives, from small scale traders to large agro-processors to government regulatory officials," she said. "So, at the end of the week, we felt that we had learned as much as the other seminar participants."


New FAVA/CA Leadership

At the FAVA/CA Annual General Meeting in Tallahassee January 19, 2001, Ms. Diane McNeel was elected chair of the board. New directors are: Ambassador Jeanette Hyde, Raleigh, North Carolina; Mr. Philip Mortimer, Fredalan Inc., Aventura; Ing. Fernando Paiz, La Fragua, Coral Gables; Mark Schlakman, Esq., US Department of State, Washington D.C.; Dr. Fred Seamon, MGT of America, Tallahassee; and Ms. Marjorie Turnbull, Tallahassee Community College Foundation.


Business Consultant Helps Bahamas Co-Operatives Develop

The Bahamas Ministry of Commerce, Agriculture and Industry requested training for five co-operatives located throughout the Family Islands, Bahamas. These co-operatives hope to revitalize and grow by training members in broadened leadership qualities and management skills.

Volunteer-consultant Martin Nebojsic, of Nebojsic & Associates, P.A. in Ft.Lauderdale, conducted the training for 40 participants from November 29 to December 2, 2000.

"I spoke to a number of business leaders and government officials and offered a different perspective on their business practices. We discussed new business opportunities above and beyond what they’re doing in tourism," Nebojsic said. He added that the participants were willing to "think outside of the box," examine what capabilities were available, and look to countries such as Japan for role models in business development.

According to Nathaniel Adderly, Ministry of Agriculture-Director of Cooperatives, the training was useful and well received. "The participants appreciated and understood the examples he used. It was very effective and very meaningful," Adderly commented. "The ideas can only enhance the overall abilities of our members in terms of their management skills. Hopefully, our relationship with FAVA/CA will continue and we can look forward to some follow-up involvement from FAVA/CA volunteers."


Grenada Computerizes Personnel, Land Records

Veteran volunteer Dr. Charles Conaway, associate professor at Florida State University School of Information Studies, conducted technical assistance in computerized record keeping for more than 20 participants in Grenada from November 16 to 23, 2000.

Beryl Isaac, permanent secretary, Grenada Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Forestry and Fisheries, requested assistance to computerize the personnel and land records in the Ministry. Much of the work of the Ministry is still done manually, even when it involves a large volume of data. For the Ministry’s 300 staff, tracking personnel records had become tedious and time-consuming.

"There were two immediate goals: First, to look at the activities related to the maintenance and use of the accounts for Crown Lands sales. Second, to do a similar task for the personnel records for Ministry employees," Conaway said in his final report. "A third task, which became apparent soon after my arrival, was to provide some general recommendations for overall computerization of other Ministry functions.”

It is hoped the development of data bases for personnel and land records will result in increased efficiency and ease in retrieving information and, ultimately, savings on time spent in data management.

According to Conaway, changes have already begun to take place.

"Literally, as I was leaving the Ministerial Complex, Mr. Barclay informed me that he had received tentative approval to hire additional clerical staff to undertake the settlement-by-settlement analysis of each allotment," he said. "This was good news indeed!"

In addition, training was conducted in upgrading computer skills of some livestock/veterinary officers to manage scientific data in animal health and livestock production. The absence of hard data can affect the ability to plan for future developments in the livestock sector. The training enhanced the management of all available data and the setting up of databases.


Honduras, Florida Schools Make Virtual Connection Concrete

Long-time Honduras partner and director of the San Pedro Sula-based Instituto Técnico de Electricidad y Electrónica (ITEE) Raúl Peña Moreno has partnered with the South Dade Adult Education Center, Homestead, to provide English as a Second Language (ESOL) instruction via the Internet for his students.

South Dade Principal Berta Pitt and ESOL Department Director Armi Sturges traveled to San Pedro Sula for nine days this past November. Pitt and Sturges led the evaluation of 280 students and worked with the ITEE teachers to make sure the curriculum was synchronized.

"We made recommendations regarding placement tests, curriculum, texts, methods and approaches," the volunteers reported. "We also discussed the possibility of developing an English language school attached to the existing University in San Pedro Sula. There seems to be a strong desire by the people to gain English language skills for business and technology purposes."

While they were there, the FAVA/CA volunteers met with an advanced English bilingual group, and administered the Writing Skills Tests. They also did student surveys of occupational preferences and career goals. Later all students who had been assessed attended an assembly to receive their certificates.

"We are glad to say that everyone of the students tested showed gain," the volunteers said.

Moreno noted the training will help his school to become the premiere bilingual institute in San Pedro Sula and possibly Honduras. "The trainers did an excellent job," he said, adding that some students can already communicate in basic English.

The final step will require a visit by a South Dade technician to ensure the computer link is established. Because so much of the technical information for electronics and computers is in English, instruction in English is critical for the students of the technical school as it is highly valued by local employers.


Belize Women Learn Bed And Breakfast Skills

Veteran small business expert Aixa Nuño, Miami Beach, traveled to St. Margaret’s, Belize December 5-12, 2000, to provide training for two ‘Bed and Breakfast’ women’s groups. She visited the facilities and conducted workshops for 17 participants from the two groups. The training focused on establishing basic standards and setting short, medium and long-term goals for the development of the B&B services.

"The women were receptive to the training offered, though they will need reinforcement," Nuño reported. "I asked them to set short, medium and long-term goals to make changes to produce a more attractive environment for the occasional tourists. They also committed to setting goals and discussing them as well as accomplishments at each of their future meetings."

St. Margaret’s Village sits near the entrance to Five Blues Lake National Park and has potential for attracting foreign tourists. Catherine Archibald, a volunteer from Princeton, New Jersey, working with the park management, requested the hospitality management training on behalf of the two groups.

"It was great to have the FAVA/CA volunteer come to St. Margaret’s Village," Archibald said. "She met with women’s groups and encouraged the women to think of ways they could improve their bed and breakfast accommodations that would not cost more money than they could afford. She tried to emphasize that the women could make improvements without outside help, just by using the resources that they have and what they already know. In this way the volunteer was helpful in planting a seed of motivation."


Quality Assurance In Caribbean Vet Labs Assessed

Veterinary laboratories are the front line of defense against animal diseases and dangerous chemical residues. In early 1999 the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and its French counterpart CIRAD-EMVT launched a Caribbean net work of veterinary diagnostic laboratories with the goal of accrediting member labs for particular tests. After condensing a long list of diagnostic laboratories, IICA requested assistance from FAVA/CA to evaluate the quality assurance aspects of selected laboratories in the region.

Dr. Michael Slayter, chief of the Bureau of Diagnostic Laboratories for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DOACS), Kissimmee, and Tallahassee-based DOACS scientist Dr. Nohemy Reid conducted a round of assessment visits in September.

"During these visits, several labs exhibited technical strengths which deserve recognition," Slayter reported. For example, he noted that the Barbados laboratory has a strong capability in poultry diseases and testing for antibiotic residues.

In late November, Slayter presented their findings to thirty representatives at a regional veterinary congress in Guadeloupe.

"The opportunity to work in a collegial fashion with the staff members of each network member country was a rare and memorable opportunity. The one attribute found in each location was the deep desire to make this laboratory network successful," Slayter commented. IICA coordinator Sandra Vokaty requested the technical assistance to develop quality assurance programs in several member countries, including Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Dominican Republic.

"The Caribbean laboratories were extremely appreciative of the technical advice that Dr. Slayter was able to provide. The laboratories now have a clear understanding of the challenges that they face to put quality assurance measures in place," Vokaty said.

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