COVID-19 impeded the Farmer-to-Farmer Program (F2F) due to travel restrictions preventing U.S. volunteers from traveling overseas. As a solution, USAID encouraged its implementing partners to create paired assignments, linking volunteer experts from the United States with those in host-countries - and in HAF’s case, in Morocco. Together, paired volunteers analyze and solve the challenges faced by cooperatives and educational centers. HAF seized this opportunity, and uses its network of local experts to connect with U.S. experts.
The first assignment in the Oujda region, while under unexpected circumstances, proved to be a success. Laura is a U.S.-based farmer who has previously served with Morocco’s F2F Program in early 2020 with two Host Organizations (HOs) in the Oujda region. She was paired with Hicham, who grew up seeing his father manage one of the first nurseries in Morocco. He then studied to become an agricultural technician and now manages his own nurseries.
Hicham and Laura identified the goal to assist three cooperatives in their planning of new fruit tree and medicinal plant nurseries. After agreeing with Laura on how to proceed, Hicham visited the HOs in three different provinces, met farmers, and delivered workshops to people to improve their knowledge on how they can refine their capabilities in nursery design and promoting healthy growth.
As a result, Hicham and Laura developed estimated budgets for the prospective nurseries that help the HOs understand all the financial details, the needed materials, and the quality of seeds and soil. The social enterprise in Germany, Ecosia, a HAF partner, accepted to contribute to starting one of the three nurseries in Guercif province. This new nursery will see the light during the first half of 2021.
With his 15-year plus experience, HAF could not let Hicham go after he finished this assignment in the Oujda region and asked him to conduct other assignments in Beni Mellal and Ouarzazate, to share his knowledge with people who requested his technical and managerial insights.
Laura and Hicham got along really well and Hicham expressed his interest in visiting Laura’s farm in the U.S. when time and conditions permit. Laura wants to participate in another remote assignment with Hicham to support more farmers and their cooperatives. Laura and Hicham are an excellent example of the potential that these collaborations offer. This experience highlights the efficiency of remote partnerships and the benefits that result.