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FARMERS TRAINED IN VERMICOMPOSTING IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Protected agriculture systems such as greenhouses and shadehouses are increasingly being used in the Dominican Republic to increase vegetable production for local and international markets. Due to the high cost of fertilizer, greenhouse associations across the country are in great need of assistance in the area of homemade organic fertilizers and pesticides as a means to improve soil and plant quality. To ensure associations have nutritious compost to add to their protected agriculture structures, training on vermicomposting was requested by SurFuturo, the Association for the Advancement of San Jose de Ocoa (Asociación para el Desarrollo de San Jose de Ocoa), and the Constanza Greenhouse Cluster. First time FAVACA volunteer Rhonda Sherman, an Extension Specialist in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at North Carolina State University, traveled to the Dominican Republic September 15-30, 2012 to provide training farmers and extension agents. Sherman traveled to the towns of El Cercado, Derrumbadero, La Guama, San Jose de Ocoa, Rodadero, El Rifle, and Santo Domingo to train on vermicomposting for use in greenhouses. Many of the vermicomposting projects she visited were suffering from pests, so Sherman suggested best practices to manage pests. Sherman also observed excess moisture at the bottom of the composting piles, which farmers and technicians often used as liquid fertilizer, but Sherman advised not to use the liquid as it may contain organisms harmful to people, animals, or plants and taught about vermicompost tea production and its application to crops. Sherman also visited the Center for Development of Agriculture and Forestry's Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Program and toured a farmer's market and a solid waste transfer station that composts organic waste to comment on improvements to their composting programs. 

ORGANIC CERTIFICATION FOR VEGETABLE GROWERS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Nearly twenty years ago, the Dominican Republic started organic agriculture projects with a major emphasis on banana and cocoa crops. Currently vegetable growers and homeowners are very interested in organic certification. To increase the capacity of organic vegetable production, the Federation of San Pedro and Pablo (Federación San Pedro y Pablo), the community of El Cercado and the Green House Cluster requested FAVACA's assistance to train farmers on organic product certifications for greenhouse vegetables emphasizing US regulations and organic standards. FAVACA in collaboration with Partners of the Americas, recruited Juan Carlos Andrade, Certification Coordinator/Inspector for Organic Agriculture for Quality Certification Services in Gainesville, Florida, to travel to the Dominican Republic and work with farmers and extension agents from September 2-15, 2012. Andrade provided farmers and producers with an overview of the history of organic agriculture certification, advantages of organic production in greenhouses, and prospects to export organic products to the United States and Europe. Andrade trained communities of small farmers on organic vegetable production techniques and began to introduce them to the organic certification process. Andrade also worked with farmers on the impact of cultural practices, production of various types of organic fertilizers (compost, Bokashi, Humus), mechanisms for controlling pests and the concept of disease and its effect on biodiversity and organic production systems. Andrade focused on the creation of an organic management plan, an essential requirement for farmers implementing an organic certification system, and detailed record-keeping of activities and applications that are audited during organic certification inspection visits. Andrade noticed that many of the greenhouses were very hot, which influences the proliferation of pests and some diseases especially fungal diseases; he worked with greenhouse operators to lower temperatures especially during peak hours.

PROTECTED AGRICULTURE MANAGEMENT IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Greenhouses and protected agriculture have increasingly been established in the past several years and expanded vegetable production has created more opportunities for residents of San Jose do Ocoa, Dominican Republic. Fundation Sur Futuro and the Association for the Development of San Jose de Ocoa (Asociación para el Desarrollo de San José de Ocoa - ADESJO) requested training on protected agriculture, disease management, irrigation best practices, and temperature and soil management. FAVACA in collaboration with Partners of the Americas recruited Juan Carlos Diaz-Perez, Associate Professor in the Horticulture Department at the University of Georgia's Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, Georgia to provide the training July 15-26, 2012. Diaz-Perez trained farmers and extension agents specifically the communities of Las Auyamas, El Rifle de la Horma, and Constanza where he met many female growers. He provided an assessment of the vegetables being grown and best practices for the sanitary situation (pest and diseases, prevention and control) as well as identified appropriate technologies and practices to increase production and productivity. Phytophthora, a plant pathogen causing problems in the greenhouses, was identified and Diaz-Perez was able to recommend proper irrigation management, use of organic amendments and fertilizers, crop rotations, and temperature management to ameliorate heat stress as ways to partially combat the disease. Diaz-Perez also recommended that greenhouse producers start a crop rotation system to help with soil fertility. Lastly, Diaz-Perez suggested a postharvest management and marketing plan to improve the prices farmers receive for their products. By working together in a cooperative, growers could build a communal packing shed or achieve efficiencies in transportation of produce to market.

 

HORTICULTURE TEAM HELPS IMPROVE YIELDS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

The Development Association of San José de Ocoa (Asociación Para el Desarrollo de San José de Ocoa - ADESJO) and the Foundation for the Future (Fundación Sur Futuro) have constructed greenhouses to grow peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other high value vegetables.  However the farming groups are still relatively new to using protected agriculture systems and requested FAVACA provide an expert in environmental impact assessments of greenhouse-produced vegetables as well as a horticultural specialist to train extension officers and farmers on recognizing foliar diseases, root diseases, insects and mites and the effects of high temperatures along with other issues affecting producers like low prices, soft markets, and postharvest loses.  FAVACA in collaboration with Partners of the Americas recruited Dr. Don Wilkerson, Professor & Extension Specialist and Emeritus Horticultural Specialist from the Department of Horticultural Sciences at the Texas AgriLife Extension Service at Texas A&M University, and Sharon Duray, retired Lecturer and Academic Advisor also with the Department of Horticultural Sciences.  They traveled to the Dominican Republic from April 22 - May 6, 2012 and toured several commercial greenhouse vegetable production facilities in Constanza, Jarabacoa, Santiago and surrounding areas that produce peppers and tomatoes and face a number of challenges which limit yields.  The volunteers taught producers to identify and stop the spread of various diseases and viruses found in the greenhouses as well as greenhouse sanitation and safety.  During the second week, the volunteers traveled to San José de Ocoa and met with several women producer groups to view their greenhouses and train them on remedying a variety of problems found.  One suggestion in particular was solarization of the soil, which may protect against some diseases provided that soil temperatures reach a high temperature over a period of about one month. This same technique can also assist in controlling weed seed and nematodes.  The volunteers provided recommendations and resources that if followed properly will help greenhouse producers resolve disease, virus and blight problems and will increase yields.


AVOCADO PRODUCTION IMPROVED IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Fruit production, avocados in particular, is a huge agricultural industry in the Dominican Republic. Avocados are produced for local consumption and international export with the best quality produce exported out of the country. While the industry is quite large, the quality of produce could be improved with small changes by farmers and post harvest handlers. To guide farmers and handlers on the best methods to follow to ensure quality produce and developing secondary avocado products such as cosmetics, FAVACA in collaboration with Partners of the Americas recruited Dr. Norman Bezona, Professor Emeritus at the University of Hawaii's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources and Moise Voltaire, Manager of the Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary and a food and product management and design specialist, to work with local farmers and hospitality schools from January 15-29, 2012.

While in the Dominican Republic, Bezona and Moise assisted with production, harvesting and handling practices and traveled from farm to farm to work with extension personnel. The volunteers were able to note the typical problems of pests and disease most of which were being managed in an appropriate manner. Problems such as mites, avocado lace bug, Ambrosia beetle, algal leaf spot, powdery mildew are common and farmers are using the appropriate pest management methods to combat the pests. The volunteers visited several market outlets to view the packing procedures and noticed that most of the fruit were being handled a bit roughly at the packing house. The volunteer also consulted with the distributors in Miami, Florida and noted that the fruit did not arrive in the best condition. In some instances, the fruit was not ripening properly due to too much chilling and stem end rot perhaps due to handling at the packing site.

While avocado is very popular, its local uses are quite limited both in foods and other value added products like cosmetics. With a rapidly expanding visitor industry, there is a great opportunity for marketing this amazing and versatile fruit. To aid in the development of value added products, Moise traveled to the Escuela Nacional de Medio Ambiente and Escuela Tecnica Hotelera to provide food demonstrations featuring the uses of avocados in dishes such as soups and salads. The students are now able to prepare a few dishes that contain avocados to the delight of the tourism industry.

The volunteers provided recommendations to improve the quality of avocados being sent abroad. Additional assistance is needed by the growers in understanding cost of production. Prices fluctuate greatly depending on supply and demand. The growers and packing house operators hope to find ways to remedy this by growing varieties that ripen when supply is lower.

WOMEN FARMERS OPEN NEW MARKETS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Small farmers across the world face difficulties accessing markets that will provide them a fair price for the produce they sell.  The Asociación Para el Desarrollo de San José de Ocoa, is an association of women vegetable producers who maintain several greenhouses across the region of San José de Ocoa just outside of Santo Domingo, also have difficulties accessing markets beyond their traditional local buyer. Produce is often sold at set prices and are often well below actual market value since many of their members and the extension officers who work with the association don't have the knowledge of how to access new markets. In order to provide extension agents with new and accessible markets, the Asociación Para el Desarrollo de San José de Ocoa along with Partners of the Americas requested FAVACA assistance to provide an expert to work with extension agents on how to gain access to new markets.  Agronomist Hugo Sanhueza, President of Draft Animal Technology of Miami, Florida which specializes in international consulting for the practical application of horses and horse farm machinery for application in Latin America, traveled to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic August 27- September 10, 2011. While in the Dominican Republic, Sanhueza met with agricultural extension agents to provide training on how to create a production plan for greenhouse vegetables, a marketing plan to help farmers enter into new markets and how to create a strategic plan for business expansion. To help small greenhouse associations, Sanhueza taught extension agents how to create a production plan which will include a period of twelve months to help the agents prepare for the activities of the production cycle, planting and  transplanting, maintenance and care of seedlings, and harvest and packaging. In additional to a production plan, extension agents learned how to create a marketing strategy to develop new partnerships with other micro-vegetable producers to "increase" production and diversify the product line available to the market(s), how to sell to an export market with special emphasis on quality assurance, and how to sell directly to consumers in urban centers and specialized markets. Lastly, Sanhueza provided training on how to create a strategic plan for future business expansion such as establishing an area for the development and germination of transplants.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC RECEIVES VALUE CHAIN TRAINING

The Association for the Development of San Jose de Ocoa (Asosciacion para el Desarrollo de San Jose de Ocoa) {ADESJO} and the Foundation for the Future (Fundacion sur Futuro) are comprised of several women vegetable producers growing peppers, cucumbers and other high value perishable items. Once these women harvest a particular vegetable product, they generally sell their harvest to a local buyer at a set price regardless of the time of year or the current value of the particular vegetable. The agreement with the local buyer does not allow for a price negation which often results in the producers not making as much money on their produce compared to other markets which would allow for adjusted prices for produce depending on the market value at the time of harvest.  The women producers do not have the knowledge of the value chains available to them and therefore are not able to know the current market price or the best markets to sell their produce. To help ADESJO understand the markets available to them, FAVACA in collaboration with Partners of the Americas provided an expert on agribusiness and value chain commodities to travel to the Dominican Republic and assess the market chains available in the country.  Michael McGuire, Agribusiness Consultant from Monterey, California traveled to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic August 14-27, 2011 to assess value chains available to small vegetable producers in the Dominican Republic. Once an assessment was made by McGuire, he was able to share his assessment with the group of women producers on strategies that would improve access for their group to sell their produce. 

WOMEN COOPERATIVES GROW IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

The Association for the Development of San Jose de Ocoa (Asosciacion para el Desarrollo de San Jose de Ocoa) {ADESJO} and the Foundation for the Future (Fundacion sur Futuro) have been working with cooperatives made up of women farmers who have established greenhouses to increase the number of vegetables produced in the country. Extension agents continually work with the cooperatives to provide valuable training to ensure a healthy harvest; however, extension officers often lack the resources to train these cooperatives effectively.  To help increase the capacity of extension agents, FAVACA in cooperation with Partners of the Americas provided two extension education specialists to work directly with extension agents and the women cooperatives. Cesar Asuaje, Regional Specialized Extension Agent for Agriculture Farm Labor Education and Pesticide & Farm Safety at the Palm Beach County Extension Office part of the University of Florida/IFAS, and Dr. Marta Hartmann, a professor and extension specialist at the College of Agricultural Education and Communication also from the University of Florida, traveled to the Dominican Republic April 24 - May 8, 2011 to conduct training  for local staff on extension philosophy and methodologies especially working with women groups in program planning, program implementation, evaluation, and reporting. The local extension staff who mostly work with fruit crop producers and greenhouse associations often lack innovative methods to transmit technical assistance. The volunteers trained local staff on methodologies to support the women (greenhouse) associations and also how to be change agents and speed the acceptance of new technologies and concepts.

FOOD SAFETY ADDRESSED IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Food security has become a major focus for many countries in the Caribbean and the Dominican Republic has been making major strides to increase the number of vegetable producers providing quality produce to the tourism and domestic markets.  The Association for the Development of San José de Ocoa (Asociación Para el Desarrollo de San José de Ocoa) {ADESJO} and the Foundation for the Future (Fundación Sur Futuro, Inc.) are two groups primarily composed of women which previously received micro-financing to establish greenhouses by which they were able to create a source of income for their families and their community.  The two groups have since repaid their loans but still lack much of the technical expertise in order to consistently harvest quality produce.  In order to help standardize the quality of produce grown in the greenhouses and to help ensure that the produce is not contaminated, both organizations requested an expert to provide training on food safety and contamination control.     

In collaboration with Partners of the Americas, FAVACA volunteer Dr. Chris Gunter, Associate Professor and Vegetable Production Specialist with the Department of Horticulture from North Carolina State University, traveled to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic February 27- March 12, 2011 to provide training to greenhouse production facilities on food safety.  To ensure the quality of the produce grown in the greenhouses meets certain standards for both commercial and export markets, Gunter provided training on practices to improve farm sanitation and food safety to farmers and extension agents.   Of particular importance, Gunter was able to help identify possible sources for contamination and educated participants on minimizing the risks during production, harvest and post harvest handling, and on how to keep packaging houses clean.

AVOCADO PRODUCTION INCREASED IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

In recent years, the Dominican Republic has made a push to compete internationally on fruit production especially in the production of avocados.  The Dominican Republic's unique climate and topography allows producers to be able to grow tropical varieties of avocados and another smaller variety which only grows in a Mediterranean climate which can be found in elevation in the Dominican Republic.  However, production is still relatively low and in order to satisfy demand both domestically and internationally, Dominican producers need to improve their production methods.

The Association for the Development of San José de Ocoa (Asociacion para el Desarrollo de San José de Ocoa) {ADESJO} and the Foundation for Future (Fondacion sur Futuro) requested the assistance of an avocado production specialist to provide on-farm evaluations and trainings on young tree establishment and care as well as mature tree care.  Dr. Jonathan Crane, professor and tropical fruit crop specialist with the University of Florida's Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, agreed to volunteer in a collaborative effort between FAVACA and Partners of the Americas from January 23- February 4, 2011. 

While in the Dominican Republic, the FAVACA volunteer met with over 60 producers and numerous extension officers by providing workshop presentations and field trainings on a variety of topics to solve many issues affecting most avocado producers. In viewing orchard after orchard, Crane noticed that nearly all producers were suffering from similar problems which prompted him to create a document for common problems and solutions for avocado producers.  Crane taught participants the correct spacing needs for planting and how to prune the trees once mature to ensure optimal fruit production.  Some producers have been suffering from diseases such as red algae spot or from pests such as the Scolytid beetle and Crane offered suggestions on the type of applications that would need to be applied to remedy the problems.  The application of fertilizers was quite common however in discussion with producers and through viewing numerous orchards, Crane noticed that some of the trees either had too much or too little fertilizer which prohibited optimal production. The correct mixture of fertilizer and a recommended number of applications was provided to the farmers and once followed should increase the production of fruit.  Lastly, Crane worked with several producers on irrigation issues especially those that have orchards on sloped terrain.   Numerous suggestions were provided to the producers on how to correctly plant and harvest on sloped terrain while also solving several water issues that farmers have been plagued by during the dry season.  As a result of the training, both extension officers and producers have the knowledge available to continually increase production. Dr. Crane also left extension officers numerous handouts translated into Spanish to further educate them on how to work with producers in correctly growing and maintaining avocado trees.

FINANCIAL PLAN GUIDES GREENHOUSE OWNERS IN FINANCIAL MATTERS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

For the past several years in the Dominican Republic, the Ministry of Agriculture and agricultural associations across the country have seen an increase in the demand for fresh produce especially with a growing tourism industry.  To help increase the amount of vegetables grown in the Dominican Republic, small greenhouses have sprouted up across the country. The Asociación Para el Desarrollo de San José de Ocoa (ADESJO) and Fundación Sur Futuro, are two groups that support small greenhouse owners, particularly women run greenhouses, with technical capacity and  financial credit to run these small businesses. The problems most greenhouses are facing is the inability to gauge if they are making a profit and how to assess the greenhouses' credit needs. Therefore, ADESJO and Fundación Sur Futuro, both Partners of the Americas host organizations, requested the assistance of an expert to assess the greenhouses' credit needs, prepare a credit plan to meet the financial needs of these greenhouses and to identify methods to improve the management of their micro-finance loans.

Virgilio Namnum, originally from the Dominican Republic, is a business development officer and business owner of the Ft. Lauderdale based Marca Design and has over ten years of financial management experience with banking institutions such as Citibank, Union Planters Bank, Regions Bank, Washington Mutual, First Union, and Wachovia. Namnum traveled to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic from July 4-18, 2010 to assess the credit needs of the greenhouses, teach farm accounting, budgeting and record keeping, and was able to help the greenhouses create a credit plan for their financial needs.

Namnum recommended that the greenhouses form an association in order to increase their volume thus attracting buyers from large produce markets and supermarkets. An additional benefit of creating an association would allow the greenhouses to negotiate buyer contracts and receive market price for their produce as opposed to the much below market price they have negotiated.  Namnum is currently helping to create a financial report for the group which will serve as a guide for their projected outcomes for an entire year.

LIBRARY SCIENCE FOCUS OF DOMINICAN REPUBLIC TRAINING 

Susane Done, Education Manager at Fundacion Sur Futuro requested FAVACA’s assistance to follow up recommendations made by Dr. Maria Chavez-Hernandez in October 2005. Fundacion Sur Futuro’s goal is to train its library staff on the importance of organization and classification of the literacy centers resources which are used mostly by youth and children. Advanced training in cataloging and classification areas were the focus to achieve by resources centers for managing their own operations independently of the foundation. Dr. Chavez-Hernandez returned to the Dominican Republic on May 28-June 3 to conduct the follow-up training where 14 participants benefited from her knowledge and expertise. The training focused on the benefits of implementing the MARC library records system and its importance for organizing information and reference services; identification of selected web sites for reference services; collaborating among library staff in the region; holding periodic staff meetings among library professionals, and having active Internet service connections available for use by staff and library patrons. Dr. Chavez-Hernandez is on the faculty of the School of Information Studies at Florida State University and also serves as the school's internship program coordinator.

COASTAL RURAL VILLAGE OF PUNTA RUCIA IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC RECEIVED TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE IN COMMUNITY PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT.

Christa LeRoux, Executive Director of Fundemos, requested FAVACA's technical assistance for assessing the viability of an aquaculture initiative, specifically shrimp, in the village of Punta Rucia, in the Dominican Republic. The Punta Rucia Eco Village and Organic Farm is a multi-disciplinary project to raise the villagers out of poverty and create a sustainable life style for the community. The focus of the July 16-22, 2006 visit by first time volunteer Jeffrey James Peterson, Fernandina Beach was to develop a sustainable plan in the Punta Rucia village that could be replicated in other rural villages in the country and the region. The technical assistance included assessing suitable aquaculture sites as well as the reef and wetlands in the area to determine their status and drawing up a managerial and educational plan for the local community members to ensure sustainability and success. Peterson is an Independent Certifier for the Aquaculture Certification Council (ACC), a U.S. based, non-profit organization that certifies Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP's) at aquaculture facilities worldwide and have certified projects related to shrimp farms, hatcheries and processing plants in Belize, Honduras, Madagascar, Nicaragua, USA and Venezuela.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC RECEIVES MEDICAL TRAINING AND NURSING CARE.

Sister Maude Rhenau of Congregación Hijas de Maria requested technical assistance to provide preventative and public health information and outpatient care for the communities in El Ceibo area whose population includes a significant number of Haitians. FAVACA return volunteer and Miamian Magaly Prezeau, MPH, and Executive Director of the Haitian American Professionals Coalition, traveled to El Ceibo from March 25-29, 2006. FAVACA first time volunteer Herard LaFrance, a Specialty Family Nurse Practitioner also from Miami, lead the 25-member medical relief team from March 25-April 1, 2006. Prezeau and LaFrance organized the team which included six physicians, four nurses, two lawyers and two public health specialists that provided medical training and nursing care. Ten nursing students from Miami-Dade College provided technical assistance on innovative ways to disseminate preventive and public health information. The student delegation included: Rita Williams, Katherine Rojas, Maria M. Fernandez, Sue Ullom, Kevin Sayer, Rachel Capoteau, Gilma Roger, Amie Davis, Miguel Santana, Ebern Jay and Lori Kelly. Over 150 communities were invited to participate in the training and outpatient care. In addition, epidemiological data was collected in order to ascertain the most prevalent healthcare needs of the community in order to plan effective future medical missions to the area. This volunteer mission was in collaboration with the Haitian American Professionals Coalition and Miami Dade College.

DISASTER MANAGEMENT WORKSHOPS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC.

The Dominican Association for Disaster Mitigation (La Asociación Dominicana de Mitigación de Desastres-ADMD) is a not-for-profit organization established in 1996 to coordinate the disaster preparedness and mitigation efforts of governmental, businesses, and private entities. ADMD works to reduce the vulnerability of populations living in areas prone to natural disasters in the Dominican Republic. FAVACA first-time volunteer Manuel D. Soto, Orlando, conducted a series of workshops including: analysis of planning, examination of vulnerability and risk, the role of emergency operation centers, and exercise design. Over 30 organizations were represented including: The Dominican Red Cross, Spain's Red Cross, Committee for Emergencies, Trecom, World Vision, and Pan American Health Organization. Soto who has over 17 years of experience in the area of disaster management, training development, and policy making for emergency management traveled February 12-17, 2006 to conduct the training. He currently serves as Director of Emergency Management for the City of Orlando and the primary advisor to the Mayor during emergency response situations.

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