Saturday, September 11, 2010

Finally: the new post

First off, my apologies for making you all wait on my next post for the past few months. I havent abandoned this thing, I just have more computer-based work to take care of these days, so everytime I'm on the internet I just can't seem to find the time to write here. Anyway, it has been a very productive few months for me. I have passed my one year mark both in the country and in my site. on one hand it feels like a very long time has passed, but on the other the time feels like it flies right by. Its hard to believe that I'm in the second half of my service!

As of the past few months, I have officially become one of two co-coordinators of the Agribusiness Inititiative of Peace Corps Panama. WHat does this mean exactly? Well, the initiative is a program that bridges both Peace Corps' agriculture and economic development programs. The farmers of Panama know much mroe about their farms and how to manage them than we could ever learn in our two years here. However, they sometimes lack knowledge about how to improve the business side of their activities. We try to bring them information on farm and project planning, money management, legal aspects (loans, crop insurance, etc), and marketing. We have a 100+ page manual that contains this information, along with activities and skits to reinforce the teachings and ease the learining process. While this information can be taught in the farm or in the process of daily conversations with farmers, the Peace Corps provides us with the opportunity to facilitate week-long seminars and bring people from all over the county together to learn and share their experiences with agribusiness. As co-coordinator of the initiative, it is my job to plan and execute these seminars and imporve upon the manuals that we use in them.

The following are pictures that were taken at our most recent Agribusiness Seminar in the province of Cocle in a community called Piedras Gordas; Fat Rocks in English. (And yes, there are some very fat rocks in the town.)

Here I am guiding a couple of participants in one of the activities during the seminar. The guy on the right is from my town. His name is Teofilo Rodriguez and he's my community counterpart.
Here all of the participants and some volunteers are lined up in an activity designed to provide a better understanding of the concept of a supply chain. Each participant has a piece of paper with a step in the production of coffee written on it.
Presenting one of the verious lectures with my fellow Agribusiness coordinator, Ben Spink of the Comarca Ngobe-Bugle.
On the last day of the seminar, we held a despedida, or goodbye, where we invited members of the town of Piedras Gordas to wacth some skits that the participants put on demonstrating their comprehension of one of the week's topics and the presentation of certificates for the participants. The woman in the middle of the picture is Stephanie Westman, sho was regional leader of the province of Cocle at the time of the seminar.

Some members of the community of Piedras Gordas watching skits put on by seminar participants.All of the participants and volunteers at the seminar.

At the end of the presentation, a drum band played some women sang a style of music called the Tamborito. The dance that goes along with it is fairly similar to the congo, done by Carribean communities, and is done between one woman and one man at a time, with others jumping in to take their places after a few minutes.And yes, I did dance the tamborito. All of my fellow volunteers ended up doing it.

So, there's a breakdown of some of the work that I do down here in the Peace Corps. We are looking to organize a new round of seminars for the upcoming year, and I hope to complete 2 or 3 more by the time next July rolls around and my service time ends. We may be having on the in the Darien region as soon as October!

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