Winrock Volunteers blog: new location

Our blog site has moved to We invite you to check it regularly!

Today’s post reflects on the 4th of July holiday and how American volunteerism honors the values that this holiday is all about.


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Entrepreneurship…A Way Forward

Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer, Michael Lowery just completed his 7th volunteer trip for Winrock since 2003, and his 3rd volunteer trip to Nigeria. This latest trip took him to Kaduna, Nigeria where he worked with the College of Agriculture and Animal Science. The Nigerian government tasked six of the agriculture colleges in the country to develop entrepreneurship curricula and to build Entrepreneurship Development Centers(EDC) to reach out to local business start-ups in their communities.

group photo NIG350 College of Agriculture and Animal ScienceBelow Michael describes his recent trip:

“My project was to meet the principals at the College of Agriculture and Animal Sciences in Kaduna (about 150 miles north of the capital, Abuja) and conceptualize a development plan for their Entrepreneurship Development Centers, built in 2008 but never implemented as a fully-staffed operating facility. My proposal, developed over a course of two weeks, was to hand off the center’s program to a board of directors recruited from the local business community, with programs taught by the College entrepreneurship faculty. I prepared a strategy paper, budget and grant proposal to sustain the EDC for a period of three years, combined with some additional donations from the local business community, with a handoff of funding to the business community in the fourth year. With the assistance of the College Provost, I met with several local business leaders to begin the process of recruiting a board.

A second task was training the College’s entrepreneurship faculty, a project that was expanded to an introductory training for students and later, the overall college faculty. Using PowerPoint presentations developed in earlier assignments, modified for Nigeria, 18 hours of training was provided to a total of 97 interested participants. Training materials and relevant spreadsheets of start-up business projections were provided to the faculty and interested students.

…..[F]unding is tight in the university system and the local job market is difficult. As a result, there is great interest in entrepreneurship as a way forward for students, and my efforts were rewarded with a lot of smiles, diligent note-taking, and pertinent questions.

Training Faculty2Having visited Nigeria several times on similar assignments, thanks to the pre-assignment efforts of the Winrock staff, I was able to use my time and talents effectively, felt perfectly safe at all times, and appreciate working with the professionals of Winrock International, Nigeria.”

–Michael Lowery

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Why volunteer?

Continuing our Volunteer Week reflections, Winrock staffer Abby Phillips shares her thoughts:

“As we celebrate National Volunteers Week, we often praise the volunteers and the great work they are doing at home and abroad. Their work is vital to their communities and to development across the globe. As a new Program Associate at Winrock International responsible for recruiting volunteers for USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer program, I have been pondering what motivates people to volunteer and what motivated me to join Winrock to recruit these individuals. I had some assumptions about the types of people that would volunteer their time to go to Southeast Asia for weeks at a time. They would have expendable free time, or may have very flexible work schedules. Although this may be the case in some instances, the majority of people that volunteer for overseas development assignments are extremely busy. Their schedules are packed because they are experts in their respective fields, but they find a way to stop their work for weeks at a time to volunteer. Why?

I know I can’t speak to each individual’s motivation to volunteer, but I think the meaning of volunteerism and why talented people decide to participate are one in the same. Volunteerism is about selflessness and a genuine desire to positively impact the society you are working within. Winrock’s volunteers are experts in their fields because they have a drive to find solutions to problems that impact agricultural and economic development. That same drive motivates them to bring those solutions to other countries to bolster their resources, which leads to greater agricultural and economic development in those areas as well. However, it is their selflessness that sets them apart from others. Many people have a desire to positively impact society, but volunteers do so by sacrificing their time at home and at their jobs to take off for countries and work situations that are very different from their own.

Volunteerism is about receiving payment in the form of a changed world view and invaluable insight from those you are working with on a volunteer project. Winrock’s volunteers are motivated to assist others and in return they receive life-changing knowledge and experiences with people of different cultures. These are the reasons why I joined Winrock. I am excited to recruit individuals who are motivated to provide technical assistance even when it isn’t convenient for them. I look forward to working with volunteers who want to make an impact, and I cannot wait to see how it impacts them.”

Are you inspired yet? -Check out for more info on Winrock’s volunteer programs and open opportunities around the world!

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National Volunteer Week

Happy National Volunteer Week!

As a proud implementer of volunteer programs around the world, Winrock is always happy to participate in celebrating and recognizing service. Each year at this time, we join many other organizations across the country to reflect on volunteerism — particularly around these three questions: “What’s your story? What does service mean to you? Why do you volunteer?”  

Samantha Williams joined Winrock’s Volunteer Programs team two weeks ago. In her new role with us, she will be supporting volunteer activities in Asia and Africa… and thus, these questions of service and what drives someone to volunteer are in the forefront of her mind.

Here’s her story:

“Some of us are born with an inherent desire to give, but more often than not, it’s a characteristic that is learned. When I was in elementary school I vividly remember my first encounter with giving – at least it was the first encounter that I recognized as giving.

My parents had noticed that my after school program needed new toys, art supplies, sports equipment, and worst of all, board games (nobody even thought about trying to play Monopoly). My mom and dad took my younger sister and I to Toys’R’Us to help pick out the sparkly new supplies. Dolls, coloring books, basketballs, a Monopoly set with 100% of its pieces – it was a kid’s dream. We went home and stashed the items in black trash bags so that nobody could see what was in the bags.

I distinctly remember my parents telling us that we couldn’t tell anyone what we had done. But why, I asked. I would be the coolest kid in school! My name would be forever etched into the After School Care Hall of Fame. Fortunately, that day I was taught a life lesson that has never left my consciousness. We should give not because we want recognition or praise, but because it’s the right thing to do, my parents said. So, we secretly dropped off the bags of toys and the next day, I watched in silence as all of my friends reacted to the surprise with pure joy. These gifts weren’t mine and nobody knew that I had anything to do with it, and somehow I still felt good. Really good. Proud, even. Because receiving could never feel as rewarding as giving, especially when done with humility.

Ever since that day I have held on to the feeling that comes with volunteerism. After college I decided that no matter what job I took, the most important requirement would be that my work benefits others. I have been honored to work in state and federal government, a non-profit serving veterans and their families, and now Winrock International.

Winrock’s mission is one that I could not be prouder to support. For 25 years Winrock volunteers have traveled to 58 countries and completed more than 4,800 assignments. As a recruiter, my job is to find the most qualified experts to assist people all over the world in areas related to agricultural development, economic growth, the empowerment of women and youth, and so on. Although a volunteer’s work will certainly have an immediate impact on the communities they serve, the long-term effect of their visits is what makes our work so significant.

In my new role I am excited to interact with past, present, and future volunteers – all of whom share Winrock’s commitment to changing our world for the better. I’m excited to meet the wonderful people we are committed to serving. Most of all, I am excited to be a part of the next 25 years of volunteerism at Winrock.”

What’s your story?





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Planting the Seed of Volunteering

The Recruiters from International Ag and Volunteer Programs participated in the Arkansas Women in Agriculture Conference (ARWIA) held in North Little Rock, Ar.  There were over 125 women attending from all over the state of Arkansas. The conference offered mini-courses in such areas as Pollinator Habits, Waters of the U.S. Rule, Risk Management Ideas for Arkansas Crop Produces and Beekeeping, along with Animal Health and others.

The Volunteer Technical Assistance recruiters attend this and other conferences in order to reach to potential volunteers for our programs around the world. In meeting potential volunteer we plant the seed of volunteering for our Farmer-to-Farmer projects. To find out where we will be next, follow us on our Facebook Page or to learn more about our volunteer opportunities, visit our webpage at



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International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day!

The United Nations notes that “International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role…”

We certainly know some women who have played an extraordinary role and made an extraordinary commitment to improving lives.

In the last year alone, 26 women donated 584 days of their time to provide technical assistance and training — as volunteers — to more than 1,000 women and men in Bangladesh, Guinea, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Senegal. As a result of their efforts, farmers, agriculture education and training providers, youth, and agribusiness staff have improved knowledge, learned new skills, increased productivity, and built lasting relationships.

Extraordinary, indeed.


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Success is when preparation meets opportunity

DSC08399F2F Volunteer introduces Good Agricultural Practices to oil crop farmers in Myanmar

The USAID-funded Asia Farmer-to-Farmer Program, implemented by Winrock International, provided technical assistance for the Magway Region Farmers Development Association (FDA) to improve their oil crop production. Volunteer, Dr. Martin Lo, from Maryland conducted training on Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) for oil crops, including sesame and peanut. Network Activities Group (NAG), a local NGO, supported this training as a partner organization.

Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) are practices that need to be applied on the farm to ensure food safety during pre-production, production, harvest, and post-harvest stages.

Before training, Dr. Lo visited oil crop farms to assess farmers’ current farming practices and opportunities for improvement to meet GAP requirements. The training took three days (February 3-5, 2015) and 32 farmers (including 6 women) from 4 townships (Magway, Minhla, Minbu, and Natmauk) were trained.

Dr. Lo explained to farmers that, “[the US government supports these important volunteer trips], to create sustainable agriculture and to foster quality, safe crops from such fertile regions.”

“So, not only am I here to teach you the knowledge about GAP, but I am also here to learn and understand your real needs in order to strategize the best approaches to help you,” he said.

The training course covered an overview on GAP, GAP guidelines for general crops, and GAP for peanut and sesame harvesting and post-harvest handling. Dr. Lo shared his international experience on poor and exemplary farming practices. He suggested that farmers develop a 3-step strategy to meet global GAP requirements. The first step is to improve safety and quality of products, while the second step is to improve facilities, and the third step is to improve traceability. He also recommended that farmers improve pesticide management, integrated pest management approaches, and consumer education.


Dr. Martin Lo explains GAPs for harvesting by showing the proper techniques with an orange and improper techniques with a grape. (NAG’s training hall, Magway, Feb.2016)


“Success is when preparation meets opportunity. While it might seem difficult for farmers to reach GAP standards, it is a global trend, and if Myanmar farmers fail to upgrade their practices they will be left out of the market where food safety and traceability are the most critical issues,” Dr. Martin Lo highlighted.

This is Dr. Lo’s second visit to Myanmar and his first to the Magway Region. Last year, he trained members of the Myanmar GAP Team under the Myanmar Fruit, Flower, Vegetable Producer and Exporter Association (MFFVPEA) and potato farmers in Heho. The Myanmar GAP Team re-echoed Dr. Lo’s training to at least 860 farmers in different states and regions.

U Han Nyunt, training participant and chairman of FDA mentioned, “We thought GAP was too far from us, but now we understand GAP is a MUST for food safety. And we notice we have opportunities even though we have challenges. So we will work hard to improve our farming practices to meet GAP standards.”

This is the second volunteer assignment for FDA. Volunteer Mr. Bill Nichols helped FDA to improve their organizational development last year. Mr Roger Engstrom also just completed a training for members of FDA on Oil Crop Seed Production Management during the last week of February, 2016.“We highly appreciate USAID, the Farmer-to-Farmer Program, Winrock International, and volunteer experts,” Nyunt added.

Sky-Net ALFC channel recorded the training sessions and the video will air throughout the country.

Thank you to Dr. Lo for your continuous support of the Farmer-to-Farmer program!

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