Thursday, January 26, 2017

Information Technologies Key to Farmers

Many of us have technology at our fingertips via our mobile devices. We can check grain markets, weather, and even the score of last nights basketball game. Recently the FAO Director-General called for information technologies to be developed specifically for farmers in developing countries. We encourage you to read the linked article and use the discussion points below to guide your conversations around the globe.

More Support to Family Farmers Needed

Discussion Points
  • Why are information technologies so important to small family farmers in developing countries?
  • Why is it so important to give attention to small farmers in developing countries? 
  • What technologies are being developed that will help farmers in developing countries?
  • Look at agriculture in your community. How is information technology utilized in agriculture?
  • Imagine you work for a technology company in development. What technologies and tools would you create for farmers in developing countries and how could they use them to improve agriculture?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Natural Disasters: Agriculture's Role

We often hear about natural disasters and their impacts on communities, but we don't always hear about the impact on agriculture from these disasters. Linked below is a video (3 mins), from the FAO, that tells the story of natural disasters impacts on agriculture and the role agriculture can play in prevention of damage during these natural disasters. We encourage you to watch the linked video and utilize the discussion points to spark conversations in your classrooms, coffee shops, and communities around the globe!

Disaster Risk Reduction in Agriculture

Discussion Points

  • What has the trend with natural disasters been? (Consider timing, severity, reasons, etc.)
  • How do natural disasters impact communities and countries? How do they impact agriculture?
  • How can agriculture help reduce the negative impacts of natural disasters?
  • Why is prevention the key?
  • What agriculture practices do you feel would help prevent/decrease damage/loss during natural disasters?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Where in the world is the bird flu?

It wasn't too long ago that we were battling bird flu here in the United States and it was constantly in the news. Talk of bird flu has recently quieted and you might think it is no longer an issue. However, the linked article takes a look at bird flu around the world currently and it is evident it is still something to keep an eye on and protect against. Read through the linked article and utilize the discussion points below to guide you conversations around the globe.

Bird Flu Latest - H5N8 Outbreaks Around Europe and Beyond

Discussion Points

  • Where are we currently seeing bird flu outbreaks around the world?
  • What types of birds are being impacted?
  • Is there anything that surprised you or you found interesting from this article? Explain.
  • Has your home area dealt with bird flu recently or in the past? 
  • Assume the role of an agriculture/poultry expert. How would you slow/stop the spread of bird flu?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Travel = Flexability and Adaptability

Sunday marked a long day of travel back to Iowa from Haiti. We enjoyed some delicious cinnamon rolls and said our goodbyes before hitting the road for a three and a half hour drive to Port au Prince to catch our first of three flights for the day. It was an interesting day of travel as flexibility and adaptability were the themes of the day.

We had an excited passenger on our flight from Port au Prince to Miami. This lead to him receiving a personal escort off our plane when we reached Miami. Police, boarder control, and TSA were happy to come on the plane and show him to the exit when we landed. Due to this it delayed us slightly as we looked to deplane and make our way through customs. It was tight, but we made our connection to Chicago. Upon arrival in Chicago we started to make our way to our gate for the final leg of our trek home, when we received notification of our flight being delayed an hour. While this was not good news we did take the opportunity to grab food many had been craving while in Haiti.

After making our final connection to Waterloo we touched down a little after 10:30 PM. Unfortunately, three checked bags did not make the same travels we did throughout the day. Flexibility and adaptability were definitely traits we looked for on our travel day as well as the entire week. Thanks to all who ventured to Haiti, supported us, and continue to look to the future! Great things are ahead as we continue our collaboration with UCCC!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Shopping, Recreation, and a Concert in Haiti

Today marked our last full day in Haiti. We kicked off our Saturday by traveling to Pignon (about 7 miles from Caiman). This is a larger market than students have been able to visit in the past. This market was definitely an eye opening experience for many. The market is very crowded and you can purchase about anything and everything. They were selling clothing, jewelry, crops, livestock, meat, and much more. Before we left the market we stepped into a brick oven bakery to see how they make the delicious bread we enjoy. It is a very labor intensive process as they run the dough through a press (hand operated by two people) numerous times.

Following lunch we had an hour so we split into two groups and delivered rice and beans to a couple more families. After our deliveries were complete we started our hike to visit a local cave. The cave is utilized to collect guano to use as fertilizer on farmers gardens. When we arrived at the cave we started exploring. Some explored more than others. The crew that explored in depth got to work on their rock climbing skills! Upon returning to campus several took the opportunity to enjoy one final sunset in Haiti.

Following dinner tonight we were treated to a performance by the men's choir and even got the opportunity to sing one song with them. A small group of us took one final walk around campus under the newly installed lighting. It is bittersweet as we prepare to return home tomorrow. We are excited to see family and friends, but will miss the students, people, and weather in Haiti. We look forward to a full and safe day of travels ahead.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday Night Pizza and Pop

We started off the day by students working together to test soil samples from their gardens. We found many of the same results from past years. Soils often were low in nitrogen and potassium, adequate in phosphorus, and a pH above 7.5. Some of the students even brought soil samples from home to compare to their gardens to analyze different practices. We, also, had a discussion on practices to improve production.

After lunch we trekked out to deliver some rice and beans to families in need before we headed to a feeding center to distribute Christmas gifts. We took time to toss a frisbee, play games, and interact with the children at the feeding center. It is always amazing to see their faces light up, laughter had, and the interaction that can take place even though you cannot communicate through words due to language barriers. When we returned to campus we took a walk to find the professors dorms and deliver rice and beans to some additional families.

As we made our way back to campus we headed to the new third floor of the university to watch the sun set behind the mountains. We enjoyed Friday night pizza and pop under the famous tree out front of our dorm. We have had a relaxing evening of visiting and playing games as we prepare for our final full day in Haiti.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Agriculture, Presents, and Earthquake

Today we ventured out from campus. Following breakfast we met many of the Ag students at UCCC and made our way to the irrigation gardens. The students from UCCC  shared their successes and challenges with us for a variety of crops. This is their dry season so they are growing their second crop. The students from Haiti and the U.S. worked together to collect soil samples that we will test at the university lab Friday morning.

While we were at the irrigation gardens we took the opportunity to explore the irrigation canal and surrounding gardens. On our way back to campus we stopped by the local brick oven bakery to pick up some fresh bread to snack on. Before lunch we ventured out to the local community to deliver rice and beans to area families.

After lunch we had the opportunity to help with games and delivering Christmas presents to children at one of the feeding centers. Our crew lead some exciting games of Simon Says and Duck, Duck, Goose. Following the games we gathered the children to assist with the gift giving. We then returned to campus where we met up with a couple of the UCCC Ag students who led us on a late afternoon walk to their newly constructed broiler house for chickens. The chickens are set to come in later this year.

After supper JeanJean and Kristie's nephew came to tell us his story of the 2010 earthquake. At the time he was in medical school in Port au Prince and in a classroom when the earthquake started. The building was three levels and he was in a classroom on the middle level. The building collapsed on top of him. He was trapped beneath the concrete and rubble for approximately six hours before being dug out of the rubble. Twenty-nine of his classmates and his instructor passed away when the building collapsed. He is now a professor at UCCC and will be involved with the health clinic on campus when it opens.

We concluded a great day with some of the university students joining for another night of card games and welcoming a new team to campus from Spirit Lake, Iowa!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Lizard on the Loose

It was another great day in Haiti! The weather is beautiful and lots of awesome things are happening. Believe it or not, plans changed again today. After a delicious pancake breakfast we headed back to the cafeteria for a question and answer session with farmers at the Haitian Ag Summit. There is a lot of issues with diseases attacking a variety of crops. There was also a tense moment with concern for goats on the loose ravaging crops. Following the Q and A session we had several presentations from students on banana, cassava, and coffee. They covered everything from planting to crop protection to value added practices. Below is a group of students discussing cassava production.

We returned to the dorm for lunch when we heard screams from the girls room. There was a gecko on the loose in the girls room. Some of the girls even found the top bunks without using the ladders. The guys proceeded to try and catch the gecko. Fun fact for the day: Gecko's shed their tail as a defense mechanism and it still has nerve endings. (Wait until I can upload the video!) Our translators stepped in and caught the gecko and removed it from the girls room.

For the afternoon portion of the summit the attendees traveled to the irrigation gardens to see the students work. Due to the large number of attendees we stayed back on campus as they shuttled farmers to the garden in smaller groups to protect the gardens from damage from a large crowd. We will travel to the irrigation gardens tomorrow morning with the students to collect soil samples.

Since we stayed back we took the opportunity to work on our logistics lesson. We assisted Kristie by putting together Christmas gifts for children in the area that have been sent down. When we had the presents put together we took a short walk and purchased two bags of rice and one bag of beans. We then packaged the rice and beans in smaller portions that we will be able to deliver to area families later in the week.

We had several dinner guests tonight! Agriculture students that are supported by individuals and organizations from around the Cedar Valley joined us. After dinner we played games and taught the Haitian students how to play the card game Spoons.

We are now sitting outside reviewing notes from the Haitian Ag Summit. As we reflect on the summit it has been truly inspiring. Farmer after farmer thanked UCCC, the students, and the Global Agriculture Learning Center at Hawkeye Community College for the work that is being done. JeanJean shared that he has received multiple calls today from summit participants that were amazed by all that is being done and look forward to continued partnership to improve agriculture in the area!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

"I have a spider in my bag! Want to see?"

It was a fantastic first full day in Haiti! This morning we found out that the Haitian Ag Summit was set to start today and finish tomorrow, January 4th. We changed our plans on the fly and it was a very successful day.

We started off by helping organize name tags and registration for he farmers in attendance at the summit. It was a full room with over 200 in attendance. The students from UCCC shared their test trials and results utilizing compost tea that we have assisted with over the past year. The results they have found have been spectacular with great yield increases. We look forward to digging into the data deeper with the students over the next couple days. After lunch we had an open forum session where farmers shared challenges facing them for us to work with in the future.

Following the summit we enjoyed a tour of campus and the story behind the development of UCI. The progress that is being made is remarkable. As we were heading back to our dorm we were met by a participant from the summit who said, "I have a spider in my bag! Would you like to see?" as he proceeded to pull a bucket of tarantulas out. We were all intrigued, but a little cautious.

We ended the day with a visit from Nelson, who is a former witch doctor who has converted to Christianity. We had a great discussion on the effects of voodoo to the society and agriculture in Haiti. We look forward to tomorrow and the second day of the Haitian Ag Summit. It will be the field day of the summit as we head to the gardens.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Excitement for Haiti

Today started early with us departing from the hotel at 2:30 AM for O'Hare. Our flights took us from Chicago to Miami and then to Port au Prince, Haiti this afternoon. It is always great to see the excitement from the students as we arrive into Haiti and start our travels to UCI near Caiman.

Below we make our way out of Port au Prince as we head to the mountains.

After making our way through immigration and receiving our luggage we loaded up a couple vans and started our trek to campus. We only had to travel about 60 miles, but due to road conditions and the terrain it took us over three hours. Once we arrived on campus we enjoyed a dinner of chicken legs, rice with bean and onion sauce, and fried plantains. Now we are all settling into our rooms and enjoying sitting outside under our favorite tree in front of our dorm.

Tomorrow we are going to tour campus and surrounding areas, help with some Christmas gifts for children in the area, and plan for the Haiti Ag Summit later in the week. We look forward to sharing our experiences with you over the next week.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Chilling in Chicago

This afternoon the majority of our group met at the Waterloo airport to begin our trek to Haiti. We have a great group with a variety of backgrounds for our time in Haiti. We have a layover in Chicago tonight before an early flight Monday morning.

This year we have Alyssa, Katelin, Morgan, and Tessa who are students at Hawkeye; Cole who is a student at Iowa State and Iowa FFA State Officer; Arlan, Bob, and Darwin who are community members; Kelsey who is the Director of Iowa Education Program's at the World Food Prize; and Meghan and Brad faculty at Hawkeye.

We had a great dinner sharing conversations and getting to know everyone better, before some relaxation at the hotel. Kelsey will join us here in Chicago later tonight and we look forward to having her with us over the next week.

Check back for daily updates to follow our adventures in Haiti!