Lasting change occurs when people have the tools they need to make advancements and the expertise to support their progress in line with their aspirations. By leveraging the expertise of agricultural professionals in the United States, Farmer-to-Farmer is committed to working alongside farmers and organizations in host countries to increase agricultural productivity and profitability; improve conservation and sustainable use of natural resources; expand agricultural sector access to financial services; and strengthen agricultural sector institutions. The benefits of this program are vast – and through reauthorization of the program in the upcoming Farm Bill, Members of Congress have the opportunity to ensure the continuation of the positive outcomes.

In 2022, I traveled to Nepal and Ethiopia where I advised Munaa Krishi Limited and Mohammed Abuna Dairy on their marketing and branding efforts. Both businesses are led by hard-working entrepreneurs, dedicated to improving the economic condition of local, small-scale farmers.

Mohammed Abuna Dairy started producing milk in 2015 with just two cows and the owner’s desire to create a safe, quality product for his newborn baby. In seven short years, they have grown to 19 employees and 68 cattle. They sell an impressive 1,200 cups of yogurt a day in addition to cheese, butter, and milk at their popular yogurt shop, Shalo Yogurt Cafe, in the center of town. Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers have helped fuel their growth by providing solutions to their challenges during two-to-three-week volunteer assignments.  Looking forward, Mohammed Abuna Dairy wants to expand the number of wholesale contracts with schools and possibly open another yogurt shop in a nearby town. Their vision is to become one of the leading dairies in Ethiopia.   A Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer can help them think through the necessary steps in order to get their products on supermarket shelves which is the eventual goal.  

Munaa Krishi Limited presents a similar growth trajectory. Started in May of 2018 as an initiative of the Non-Resident Nepalese Association, Munaa Krishi Limited is transforming agriculture with modern technology and the principle of offering a fair price from farm to fork – fair pay for farmers and an affordable price for customers. They have partnered with over 4,200 farmers to offer unique, locally grown, natural products through Munaa Bazar, their chain of retail outlets. Munaa's ambitions run high. They plan to expand their chain of retail outlets within Nepal and export to international markets. I helped them create a pitch deck to seek investment and I have no doubt that there will be future Farmer -to-Farmer volunteers who will provide the expertise needed to help them reach their goals.

Administered through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by U.S.-based NGOs, Farmer-to-Farmer is the definition of a successful public-private partnership. While the support of Congress is needed to ensure financial stability of the program, it is the commitment of partnering organizations and efforts of individual volunteers that allow the program to create meaningful impact.

My assignments with Mohammed Abuna Dairy and Munaa Krishi Limited were two in a series of engagements with Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers. In fact, since 1985, over 20,000 volunteers have provided technical assistance to 116 countries, helping to spur innovation and ownership in new and advanced agricultural practices. This means that Farmer-to-Farmer has supported over 136 million people in international communities by building strong and lasting foundations for economic development. The immediate impact can be seen in the local communities, but in reality, the impact goes much further by strengthening overall global economic development and meeting long-term climate goals set by the international community.

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In many developing countries, economies are heavily dependent on agriculture but unemployment and poverty are tremendous barriers to economic growth. Mohammed Abuna Dairy and Munaa Krishi Limited, as well as other Farmer-to-Farmer hosts, offer solutions to these challenges. We have accomplished so much but the need is still so great.

We need continued support to build upon the good work we are doing. Currently, the Farmer-to-Farmer program is funded at $15 million annually. To continue supporting volunteers and expanding the countries in which we serve, we are urging Congress to reauthorize the John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer Program in the upcoming Farm Bill.  

Valerie Varco has volunteered in 10 countries with six Farmer-to-Farmer implementers. She has over 10-years of experience helping non-profits, startups, and social companies with business, branding and communication strategies in the United States, India, Burkina Faso, and Kenya. Varco received her MPA in International Nonprofit Management from New York University.