Mark Sieffert from Winrock’s agriculture unit recently traveled to Nepal to visit Winrock agriculture programs. During his trip, he also met staff and hosts that have worked with Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers. Below, he shares his first impressions of the Farmer-to-Farmer program and how it has worked in Nepal:
When American experts decide to volunteer with Farmer-to-Farmer, they need to know that they will be taken care of in an unfamiliar nation. Knowing that everyday details have been taken care of, a volunteer can quickly acclimate and get to work.
In Nepal, Winrock has a small, but dedicated and highly experienced team committed to supporting a volunteer before, during, and after his or her placement so that the volunteer can focus on the most important aspects of the visit: imparting as much information as possible to project beneficiaries.
Winrock employees Amar Thing and Ajaya Bajracharya lead the effort to welcome volunteers and coordinate their efforts. They understand the challenges of traveling in Nepal’s many remote agricultural areas with visiting foreign guests. Just as important, both are seasoned agricultural professionals who possess the broad range of technological abilities needed to translate instruction in a way that local learners will understand. Both are fluent in English, Nepali, and a handful of other local languages.
When the volunteer touches down, the details, including lodging, food, itinerary, and contacts have been taken care of. The volunteer can immediately get down to work. (That’s not to say complications don’t emerge. But when they do, Amar and Ajaya have the experience to nimbly respond.) At the close of the volunteer’s engagement, Amar and Ajaya help him or her prepare an end of assignment report. Not only does this document justify the resources USAID has spent on the placement, it also recommends metrics to evaluate outcomes and suggests areas for future work. The Winrock-Nepal team always incorporates volunteer placements in larger projects underway throughout the country.
While the welcome extended to volunteers is a natural extension of Nepali hospitality, Amar and Ajaya pay special attention to make their guests feel at ease. In part, they do so because of the tremendous value they see in volunteer placements for the projects they work on. For Amar, the impacts on local people are almost always immediately apparent. Referring to agro-entrepreneurs trained by visiting Americans: “One thing I can assure you: all these people trained by Americans have been able to increase their prestige, their clients, and their incomes. Their confidence grows, now that they have been trained by an international expert.”
According to Ajaya, “When an American expert provides training, it adds prestige. The beneficiaries listen very carefully because they know that these new practices are [of] an international standard.”
Because of the unquestioned value added by volunteers, Amar and Ajaya do all they can to keep a stream of American volunteers coming to Nepal by supporting those volunteers from the moment they set foot in Kathmandu.
A suite at the Marriott and drive-thru hamburgers may not be in the cards for a Winrock Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer in Nepal, but a visiting American couldn’t ask to be in better hands.