Transferring Knowledge on Farmer Field Day
The past week has been eventful for the MFK agriculture team, with exciting activities taking place in both our peanut research and farmer extension projects. On April 26th, Dr. Bob Kemerait, professor and plant pathologist at University of Georgia, came to Haiti for a three-day visit with MFK. Dr. Kemerait is on the PMIL advisory board and is heavily involved in MFK’s peanut research program. The purpose of his visit was to perform disease ratings on several peanut trials that had reached maturity and were ready for harvesting, both at the MFK office and in Mirebalais, in the Central Plateau region of Haiti. These research studies are implemented and managed in large part by MFK agriculture staff and Haitian agronomy undergraduate students from several universities throughout the country. However, it is still very important to have experts such as Dr. Kemerait come to perform disease ratings. The information from these ratings gives us an accurate picture of the rates of late leaf spot, peanut rust, tomato spotted wilt virus, and other diseases that affect plants in our research plots. These results will be included in forthcoming scientific publications and field growers’ guides that will be published by PMIL in English, Haitian Creole, and French. The data are also used by MFK Haitian student interns in their end of studies theses, which is an instrumental part of obtaining the undergraduate degree in agronomy at most Haitian universities.
After Dr. Kemerait’s visit last week, the agriculture team was busy preparing for the extension group “Farmer Field Day,” which was held yesterday, May 3rd. This event was similar to farmer field days in the past, but this time there were 90 farmers in attendance instead of the usual 60. This is because MFK is now training three farmer groups instead of two, with the addition of a newly formed group in the Savane Longue community of Ouanaminthe early this year. The farmers first visited First Step Farm’s peanut, corn, and plantain operation in Plaine du Nord and had an interesting discussion with the FSF agronomists. They were happy for the opportunity to learn about mechanized peanut production, disease and weed management, and improved planting and harvesting techniques, and they asked lots of questions. Afterwards, we gave the farmers a demonstration of the FuturepumpTM solar irrigation pump and explained our research in solar irrigation and our efforts to identify sustainable, low-cost remedies to the drought problem affecting many Haitian peanut farmers. The farmers then traveled to MFK, had lunch, and toured the factory and peanut research plots before returning to their homes in Ouanaminthe. It was an exciting day for the farmers, the MFK staff, and the student interns, as we were all able to learn and grow together through exchanging information about peanut cultivation and RUTF production. We are excited to continue working with these farmers and integrating results from PMIL research trials into our best practices training package.