In July I brought two people to a seminar that Peace Corps has been offering for the past several years in Agricultural Business. This program deals with basic business aspects of farming: SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats), general planning (vision and missions statements, goals, objectives) which is one of the parts I did, Setting up a corporation, personal finance, marketing, farm layout, loans (I did this part), insurance (I helped with this part), and more. This seminar took place near Penonome, the small regional capital of Cocle. Fortunately we were outside of this hot town, a bit cooler albiet rainy. There were 16 participants and about 10 volunteers, all of whom had one role or another.
I learned quite a bit from this seminar, especially how complex the farming process is. Aside from know what to plant, how much, when to plant, how to fertilize, how to control pests and weeds, and much more, you have to have a good way to sell your products. This complexity is illustrated by means of a chain wherein participants hold a card reading one of these activities (and there are more than I wrote), and then arranging themselves in order. It took all 16 people or nearly! I also learned how bright many of these people are, and how articulate and hard working.
These are farmers who sell their products so they are a bit above subsistence. Most use chemicals but there are organic farmers among them, including one who is the coop president in his small town producing high altitude coffee. I learned from him that a Canadian company has moved into his area. They are looking for organic coffee. Our home town group has that very product so I hope to help make some connections.
This seminar seems too long to me. Beside that and some problems with the food, which was typical Panamanian meaning it lacked anything green and fresh and besides they served a dessert on top of a pile of yellow rice, and besides the volunteers who did not do much meal planning so we ended up with a dinner of sausage and ice cream, the week long event went well.
Oh, I forgot to mention, a local host served me liver and onions, for breakfast! Panamanians do not often serve a breakfast menu as we know it, for them it is just another meal.
On the following Monday I helped A, another volunteer, do a half day seminar for a non profit organization. I talked about keeping yourself organized, and about how to organize your computer. They are using Windows XP. I have switched from Windows to Linux, the Ubuntu version, but along the way I have learned how to run Windows from inside Ubuntu (you can also do it the other way around). I can just switch back and forth, with no worries about Ubuntu getting infected with viruses and other malware from the internet or from flash drives. These problems are rampant here in Windows products.
I enjoy spending time with A. She is very bright and well educated so we find enough to talk about, and we seldom squabble. But if you learn how to squabble with someone., that means you have made the effort to get to know how to do it well.