Brownsburg resident LaRon Beemer, a competitive intelligence manager for the Agricultural Division of DowDuPont, is an African ag development enthusiast that recently traveled to Kenya for two weeks to share his technical skills and expertise with local farmers. Beemer’s assignment is part of Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) Farmer-to-Farmer program that promotes economic growth, enhanced nutrition through access to healthy food, and agricultural development in East Africa.
“I really enjoyed the privilege to use my passion for Africa, agricultural development, strategy, finance and the cooperative structure to make a difference at a dairy cooperative in Kenya,” Beemer said. “I was able to draw on my business and financial skills from Dow AgroSciences, previous projects in Africa, and my practical farming knowledge.”
Farmer-to-Farmer matches the technical expertise of U.S. farmers and professionals in agri-businesses, farming cooperatives, and universities with farmers in developing countries to assist them in improving agricultural productivity, accessing new markets, and increasing their incomes. Farmer-to-Farmer is funded by the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID).
In a world where 80 percent of food is produced by farmers working on small farms or fisheries, the movement to share proven farming and business skills can improve the quality and quantity of the world’s food supply. For communities in the developing world who often struggle to produce enough food, this can improve access to a reliable source of food and better nutrition. For the farmers, it can strengthen their path to prosperity.
The goal of Beemer’s assignment was to develop an action plan, identify areas of needed improvement in the organization, and develop a strategic business plan for a feed mill operated by a cooperative alliance. The cooperative provides quality feed and training to small scale dairy farmers that are members of 19 cooperatives that invested in the umbrella cooperative alliance. Most of Beemer’s time was spent in the Machakos area about 60 km southeast of Nairobi working with the Lower Eastern Dairy Cooperative Alliance. The impact Beemer left will help restore the cooperative to profitability and allow it to increase the volumes of quality feed on a consistent production schedule that its members are requiring.
This is Beemer’s second volunteer assignment with Farmer-to-Farmer and is one of nearly 500 assignments that focus on improving approaches to local agriculture practices, expanding production of quality food crops and nutrition in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. The program, funded by the U.S. government has been running for nearly 30 years.
CRS is partnering with five U.S. institutions to tap into the rich diversity of the U.S. agriculture community: the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, Foods Resource Bank, National Association of Agricultural Educators, American Agri-Women, and the University of Illinois’ College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
The volunteers travel to East Africa for anywhere from one to six weeks.
“We are certain that this program will be beneficial not just to the farmers in East Africa but also to the volunteers from America,” Bruce White, CRS program director, said. “It’s going to make the world a little bit smaller and a whole lot better for everyone involved.