A Dynamic Duo of 2021: IESC Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Pair Awarded


Earlier this month, the global USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program celebrated the resiliency and unwavering dedication of its volunteers in a new and exciting way. This year’s annual F2F Volunteer of the Year awards were presented to one volunteer pair from each implementing partner organization to show our gratitude for their outstanding work. The award announcements took place over a two-week period leading up to International Volunteer Day on December 5th.  You can read more about the winning pairs on the global F2F Facebook page.

IESC U.S. volunteer Katherine Cassidy and local volunteer Ernest Jerome worked together to support Jumuiya ya Changamoto, a microfinance institution (MFI) in Zanzibar that fosters the social and economic development of its members and clients by providing them with credit and financing to help establish and sustain their farming businesses. The pair supported the MFI to conduct a needs assessment of members and clients to develop a staff development plan. Then the pair provided tailored trainings in response to the assessment on loan monitoring and recovery strategies and best practices for providing financial services to small business owners. The pair went above and beyond by attending host staff meetings every morning, despite the time difference for Katherine. Ernest devoted his weekends to the project and translated their needs assessment survey to Swahili to successfully reach 300 of the MFI’s members. Katherine also personally donated to the MFI to support their survey outreach. With this support, the MFI revised its loan application process to include key borrower information and a loan repayment mechanism, and developed a loan recovery strategy, including setting new collection targets and shorter loan periods. As a result of the technical assistance provided by Katherine and Ernest, Jumuiya ya Changamoto has issued 14 new, insured loans valued at approximately $12,000 USD after a two-year pause on loan issuance.

Reflecting on the volunteer assignment, Katherine noted in a Facebook post on June 16, 2021:

“In a virtual way (online), I am back in my happy place… Africa. This time, Zanzibar, the island off the coast of Tanzania. Specifically, I am taking part in a 28-day training assignment for the USAID-supported Farmer-to-Farmer program. This is my 13th time as a F2F volunteer since 2015; and my fifth country (Kenya, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Zambia and Tanzania), in that order. This time, local expert Ernest Jerome is on the ground, and we use WhatsApp daily to plan next steps together. Our problem to solve by July 10 is — we are directing a 300-entrepreneur survey, face to face, for a microfinance institution that has trouble collecting on its small-business loans. Our five survey-conducting staff members (four of them pictured) go into the field for the first time tomorrow. They have never done this level of tracking down their loan clients. I will be on WhatsApp video tomorrow at 1:45 am, cheering them on. I thrive on this kind of training and accomplishing — inspiring others to get things done that they never before measured or even thought possible.’’

Individuals who were impacted by this assignment also had positive remarks to say about the pair. Asia Ismail Jafari, an MFI loan officer, said, “The two [separate] volunteer assignments have given us new energy, courage and outlook. We have managed to pay our loan with Small Entrepreneurs Loan Facility [a microfinance fund] [and] we have started issuing new loans.”

Suleman Faki Haji, a father of three, has benefited from the improvements to the MFI’s operations. Suleman aspired to improve his family’s income; however, he lacked the necessary finance to improve and sustain his small business. In 2021, Suleman was able to borrow approximately $1,300 USD from Jumuiya ya Changamoto, which he then used to purchase chicks and feed. From these purchases, Suleman noted that he has “experienced an increase in my household income and found a job for myself and my colleagues. [The amount I earn] is enough to meet my family’s needs and pay private school fees for my children. I am now very optimistic that I can receive more funds to expand my business after trying four times without any success.’’

Mr. Hassan Burhan, Chief Executive Officer of Jumuiya ya Changamoto, noted that, “When I arrived at this organization, I was very disappointed at first as the organization was at its final breath of its survival. But after the F2F volunteer support, the organization has risen and found its life again. In fact, without F2F support, the organization was declining. But now every member and entrepreneur we serve has been very optimistic. We have been able to reach out to our members who had begun to lose us..’’

Thank you, Katherine and Ernest, for your dedication and commitment to the Farmer-to-Farmer Program and congratulations from all of us at IESC on being recognized as our 2021 F2F Volunteers of the Year.


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