Purdue University says its USAID John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer program is moving to virtual assignments. The program was intended to be implemented in Trinidad and Tobago over the next three years, but due to COVID-19 travel limitations, the university is switching to a virtual volunteer assistance strategy to support host organizations.
A United States Agency for International Development funded program, Purdue’s F2F provides technical assistance from U.S. volunteers to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries.
“Temporarily switching to virtual assignments allows us to continue working with our host groups to help address their immediate needs. Virtual assignments have never been done in the F2F program, so we’re excited to engage with Trinbagonians using this new approach,” said Amanda Dickson, international Extension specialist and Farmer-to-Farmer Trinidad and Tobago program director.
Purdue says the virtual assignments will provide both real-time and pre-recorded trainings for host groups in Trinidad and Tobago. The assignments will have a deliverable-based program with a longer timeline.
According to Gerald Shively, associate dean and director of international programs in the College of Agriculture, two assignments already have started working virtually.
The first virtual volunteer assignment will provide the Network of Rural Women Producers Trinidad and Tobago with training in online event hosting and social media marketing. Through the virtual assignment, Purdue says the women will learn how to set up a virtual market and launch their first virtual event with technical training provided by Crystal Van Pelt, Purdue Extension educator and volunteer from Steuben County.
“The assignment is to help the women transition the annual Mango Festival to a virtual or hybrid format,” Van Pelt said. “All of our sessions are occurring over Zoom, so the participants have access to the recordings to reference as they try to implement some of these digital tools. I have been able to use the curriculum from Purdue Extension’s Digital Ready Business program. I am grateful to get the chance to help these women learn skills to help acclimate their businesses to a more digital world.”
The university says the second virtual volunteer assignment will assist the agricultural arm of the Unemployment Relief Programme in Tobago. Ohio State University Extension volunteer Jacqueline Kowalski will provide assistance virtually so that the members of the agricultural arm of URP-Tobago will be able to set up their own nursery and manage it effectively to produce healthy young plants.