Local resident helps farmers in Ghana

Monday January 14, 2013

LONDONDERRY -- A local resident took her business consulting skills to a small farming community in Ghana.

"This was an unusual assignment for me," said Corine Quarterman. "I've done a lot of them, but this one was an outstanding one. It was unusual because it's hard to get a whole group to go along with a particular program. They were enthusiastic."

Quarterman worked as a volunteer for the "Farmer-to-Farmer" program, managed by Agricultural Cooperative Development International, which merged with Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance in 1997. Both groups were founded by the U.S. cooperative community.

She returned from Ghana on Nov. 3, after spending three weeks there. It was her first time volunteering with the ACDI/VOCA, though she has done international consulting with other groups 23 other times since 1998.

"The experience itself was great," Quarterman said. "It's a beautiful area, very rural."

She worked in a community of about 260 farmers, helping to organize teams. Each team or group would have a leader and would be made up of about 16 farmers. She ended up training about 180 farmers.

"They needed work with the bi-laws, constitution, organization development and recording," said Quarterman.

Every morning, she would work with a group on business management and how to manage an organization. Then, every afternoon, she'd work on record keeping with the farmers. Each session would last 3-1/2 hours.

"This group had great potential because of their cohesion," she said.

This was Quarterman's 24th assignment. She has done similar work, traveling overseas since 1998.

At the end of the month, Quarterman will be going to do similar work in another part of Ghana. In November, she will be going to Egypt.

"When I go back in my next trip, I'm going east," she said. "It'd be a separate trip but I'd love to go back and see how they're doing."

The volunteer process "Farmer-to-Farmer" program is open to any working professional. It entails going overseas on a short-term assignment. Applications are usually in the form of a résumé.

"What we do is share that résumé with the beneficiary or host organization and let them decide what volunteer they want," said Diana Boni, a recruiter for the volunteer program. "We send a couple hundred abroad for the ‘farmer-to-farmer' program (every year.)"

In Quarterman's case, the beneficiary group was the Milenor Visi Farmers and Fish Growers Association in Awate Agame. This group works extensively with cultivating the ground for vegetables as well as caged fish farming.

Other areas that that volunteers go to include Libya, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.

Quarterman's international experience, along with her business management, business planning and association strengthening skills landed her the job.

"That was the type of specialist we were looking for with this assignment," said Boni.

Quarterman would be working with the local cooperative in Ghana to organize and strengthen the farmer association, while teaching its members to work together better and understand its purpose in a business sense.

For more information on ACDI/VOCA, visit acdivoca.org.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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