Hi there! I have returned from a short but productive visit to Guatemala! As I suspected, it was an intense trip with no time to get out and see very much, so I’m afraid I don’t have any “fun” pictures to share. Unless you’re interested in pictures of a workshop being held inside a hotel conference room.
However, I’m very happy with this visit because we accomplished a lot and because we’re continuing to develop good relationships with our key partners. As you know, my organization is working with the Guatemala Ministry of Agriculture and the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala as well as a microfinance organization and an American university partner to develop and implement a training program for agriculture extension agents. My visit to Guatemala — along with my colleague, Stephanie — was to work with these key partners to review the first cycle of the training program, assess what went well and what we’d like to improve, and work with our partners to make revisions for the next cycle.
Obviously, we have a lot of stakeholders in this process, and many of them have different approaches regarding the best way to train these agents, but we all established a common goal: effective agriculture agents must be well equipped to work with local communities through strong communication, assessment, facilitation, and partnership skills. They not only bring their agriculture expertise to communities, but their role is to help communities identify and prioritize concerns and facilitate community participation in working toward solutions to those issues, helping them to take ownership of their own development so that improvements are appropriate for each community, long-lasting and locally owned.
Stephanie and I had a great time working with representatives from all of the different partners, as we discussed how to continue strengthening these skills through the training program and how to structure a curriculum that is participatory, engaging, and effective. We may even have worked in a couple of opportunities to dance during a few coffee breaks (for those of you who don’t know, Stephanie and I conducted a week-long session in January for this agriculture training program using participatory teaching methods, and everyone who participated was surprised but very much enjoyed all of the activities. But because we used dance music during the breaks, and because one of the activities involved a lot of physical movement, they think it is funny that we also use dance to teach our subjects!).
All in all, I am very pleased with the progress we all made together, and I am very much looking forward to participating in this next cycle of trainings. It is always amazing to see what these agents are able to do in partnership with the communities in which they are working, what projects they develop together when people feel empowered to identify and make changes and have access to support for putting those plans into action.