Farmer-to-Farmer Introduction

September 9, 2017 at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa

Pictured first row, second from left: Cheryl Tevis, president of Iowa Women in Agriculture
Top row, second from left: Madeline Schultz, Iowa State University Extension & Outreach, Women in Ag

Cheryl Tevis, Iowa Women in Agriculture president was invited by Iowa State University Women in Ag to participate in a September 9, 2017 program hosting eight Nigerian women visiting Iowa through the Cochran Fellowship Program. Dr. Ebby Luvaga obtained a grant to bring the women to Iowa.  The Cochran Fellowship Program was created to give short-term training in the United States to agriculture professionals from foreign nations. The women had diverse backgrounds, ranging from raising livestock to rubber to architecture, and each arrived with specific goals.

Madeline Schultz, ISU Women in Ag Program Manager, presented the role of Annie’s Project to the women.  In Nigeria, there are many mentor-based relationships among farm women, but research-based information is difficult to find.

Margaret Smith discussed online resources, and shared a record book copy that she created with a team in the Kamuli district of Uganda. Tracking financial inputs and production records from year-to-year gave the women documentation on harvest sums and the ability to gage real profits. One visitor pointed out, “When going to banks for loan or credit they ask for projections, but we have nothing to work with so this is good for me.” She planned to use and share her record book copy when she returned to Nigeria. 

Cheryl Tevis, Iowa Women in Agriculture, highlighted the 2005 creation and subsequent growth of the organization. She explained how IWIA helps provide information and resources to women farmers, landowners, and agribusiness professionals to grow their expertise, skills, and knowledge and expand their networks so they can achieve their financial potential and contribute to the agricultural community.

The Nigerian women spent two weeks in Iowa, visiting farms, the Landus Cooperative board, Cargill, and many other locations. The women agreed that the biggest difference between U.S. ag and Nigerian ag is mechanization.  Historically, the U.S. adopted technology quickly because of the cost and availability of labor; Nigeria’s higher population encourages reliance on manual labor.

Nigerian women play a major role in managing farm labor and day-to-day activities, and the women enjoyed comparing and contrasting gender roles in both countries.  “Women’s roles [in agriculture] in Nigeria are more pronounced than Iowa,” Dr. Luvaga observed.

The eight women returned to Nigeria with the goal of using the information and skills gained to aid local business development and capacity building by increasing the profitability of small businesses and discovering better ways to form business plans. Others focused on improved soybean processing equipment resources and working with women scientists to discover new more profitable strategies in ag.

The visit helped the women learn how to improve their communication skills and obtain relevant topics for training farmers. They returned home motivated to build and grow women’s groups in Nigeria.

Pictured left to right: Debra Lightner, Cheryl Tevis, Daiana Coimbra and Madeline Schultz.

August 20, 2018 at Reiman Gardens, Ames, Iowa

This group of Iowa Women in Agriculture board members met with Daiana Coimbra at Reiman Gardens in Ames on August 20. Daiana is an agronomist and business owner from Brazil who visited Iowa in August.

Left to right: Madeline Schultz, Debra Schuler, Irina Yolyan, Anna Aleksanyan, Cathy Ayers and Cheryl Tevis Visit with Armenian Women

May 3, 2017 at Reiman Gardens, Ames, Iowa

Dave and Melanie Perry from Ankeny, IA developed an ongoing effort to support the Women’s Development Resource Center Foundation that was established in 2008 in Goris, Armenia. The center is now part of a network of several similar centers in Armenia. The Perrys are hosting two women from Armenia this month, Anna Aleksanyan, a program manager, and Irina Yolyan, a TV journalist. Dave invited us to visit with the women to share about each other’s activities.

The Women’s Center focuses on 1) women’s economic empowerment, 2) community engagement, 3) combating domestic violence, and 4) women’s political empowerment.

Cathy, Lori, Deb, Madeline, and Cheryl were able to visit with Dave, Anna and Irina.

Dave provided background on he and his wife’s work with the Women’s Resource Center (WRC). There are 45 US states that recognize the 1915 Armenia Genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire. About 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives. Even with this loss, today the country’s population is 97% Armenian. Dave is working with Gov. Branstad to see if Iowa can become the 46th state to recognize the genocide. Anna and Irina visited Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds. (See ‘The Promise’ movie review.)

The two women attended the Iowa Women Lead Change conference last week. They enjoyed the inspiring personal stories. (See the recap.)

Irina has a BS in Elementary Education. She works as a regional news broadcaster. She says the status of rural women is a concern, as they are often looked down on. Rural homes and schools are poor. The country is mountainous; the people are religious and generally good natured.

Anna explained Armenia is a very agriculture oriented country about the same size as Iowa. They produce many dried fruits, vegetables and wines and do not rely on GMO’s, heavy machinery, or chemicals. Women do the hard work of farming. Most farms are small. Many men, especially educated men, leave Armenia to go to work in other countries. They often send money home. However, many children are being raised without a father present and homes are often multi-generational.

The WRC helps women earn money for their household by marketing the handi-crafts they produce. (See Goris Handmade on FaceBook.) They also provide business training classes. There is a huge need for lending or mico-loans, but women do not have that opportunity at this time.

Cheryl gave an overview of the IWIA organization. It is a way for women to support each other and gain information to help them with farm business decision making and improve their understanding of agriculture. Madeline showed our guests the five minute video of Cathy Ayers talking about how she is managing her farm to improve soil and water quality. (View here.) Madeline explained how Annie’s Project courses teach women about financial, human resources, legal, marketing and production risks and shared how we are working to support women farmers and women in agribusiness.