By Kat Riddler, Managing Editor

On October 9, several students and former students in information systems presented their experience with the John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program.

The F2F program is administered by USAID and provides technical assistance from U.S. volunteers to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries to promote sustainable improvement in food security, agricultural processing, and production and marketing.

The F2F program was initially authorized by Congress in the 1985 Farm Bill and funded through Title V of Public Law 480. The program was designated as the “John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer Program” in honor of one of the pilots killed September 11, 2001 and of former Congressman Bereuter, who initially sponsored the program.

As aligned with Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, F2F works to support inclusive agriculture sector growth, facilitate private sector engagement in the agriculture sector, enhance development of local capacity and promote climate-smart development. Volunteer assignments address host-led priorities to expand economic growth that increases incomes and improves access to nutritious food.

The F2F program has demonstrated significant impact through high-quality services from volunteers. Volunteers help individuals and organizations build local institutions and linkages to resolve local problems and since 1985 have provided direct hands-on training to over 1.2 million people. In the last five-year program alone, volunteers assisted their host organizations to increase annual sales by over $442 million and raise annual incomes by $132 million. The program leveraged over $31 million worth of volunteer time contributions to development efforts and mobilized $40 million from assisted local host organizations. Nearly 1 million farmer families (representing about 47 million people) directly benefitted, and approximately 37% of all individuals trained were women. Since program initiation, nearly 16,000 volunteer assignments have been completed in more than 110 countries. Please see below for specific examples of volunteer successes.

Winrock International won the USAID grant to perform services for West Africa under the F2F program.  Winrock International is a recognized leader in U.S. and international development with a focus on social, agricultural and environmental issues. Inspired by its namesake Winthrop Rockefeller, Winrock combines scientific and technical expertise with entrepreneurial innovation to deliver market-based solutions that improve lives around the world. Winrock’s mission is to empower the disadvantaged, increase economic opportunity and sustain natural resources across the globe.

Dr. Maurice Dawson, Jr., professor in information systems, brought the program to UMSL. Dawson said, “A friend did an assignment through Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Tanzania in 2015 and told me about the program. She said her experience was amazing and that the impact she had on lives in the region within agriculture.  This was something that I wanted to participate in, so I did, but I had communication issues with CRS.  I took it upon myself to research the grant and found out there were more Non Government Organizations (NGOs) that won this particular contract.”

Dawson continued, “Having experience in Gambia I saw that Senegal had an IT opportunity.  I contacted Winrock International and from there we set everything up from July 2016.  The assignment in Dakar was amazing and this was the first opportunity that Winrock International had to do an IT assignment.  After the assignment I spoke to Jennifer at Winrock about having our students do the IT assignments.”

Other schools like Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University are going a number of business related assignments like Hopes for Our Time in Piura and #BeingFemaleInNigeria—social media campaign of women speaking out about the discrimination they face in their daily lives.

Dr. Dawson said, “ I feel that this is making a difference in communities abroad and allowing UMSL students to make that impact themselves.  It is rewarding as a professor when students complete an internship.  But this global event where they are even recognized with a presidential volunteer service medals truly warms the soul.  I truly feel that I am providing knowledge to students are in turn changing the world.”

Undergraduate Information Systems students that participate in this program receive college credit. Graduate students may also join for credit by registering for an independent study/research course. Students do not have to pay for anything to participate in this program.  The organization pays for the visa, plane ticket cost, lodging, translator, and a per diem is given per day.

The requirement time in the country for any nation in Africa is two weeks while in Asia it is three weeks.  For those seeking more extended assignments, there are possibilities up to six months with all costs covered. Students work directly with Dr. Dawson weeks before departing to ensure readiness in the field. Once students are on site, they are prepared to work independently for the project sponsor with the local Winrock International office and government client.

The student and faculty experience overseas will appear in next week’s edition.