Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer of the Year Award 2017
Nominating Organization: National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA)
As a volunteer for VEGA’s Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Special Program Support Project in Madagascar, Matthew Amato helped vanilla farmers successfully sell their vanilla through their co-op for the first time and was instrumental in the program’s success. This one-year F2F program partnered volunteers with vanilla farmers in Madagascar to help them create cooperatives, increase their annual income and tackle problems such as crop theft, access to finance and market linkages. Despite a demanding graduate school schedule, Mr. Amato volunteered 70 days of his time over the past year to help vanilla farmers build the capacity of their cooperatives, including giving up most of his winter and summer breaks. Through Mr. Amato’s expert training, guidance and dedication, the Avotra Cooperative and Mirary Soa Cooperative are now thriving from the sturdy foundation Mr. Amato helped them to build.
As a returned Peace Corps Volunteer for Madagascar, Mr. Amato is well experienced in the country’s complex and volatile vanilla industry—and effective volunteering. He demonstrated throughout the year his commitment to the people of Madagascar and the fact that he would do whatever he could to help the farmers and nascent cooperatives succeed. He worked with local partners at the Avotra Cooperative to strengthen their capacity, specifically providing trainings on recordkeeping, financial management and stock management. He also conducted an assessment on farmers’ post-harvest handling and storage of vanilla prior to its sale. During his second assignment, he helped to manage sales at the opening of the vanilla campaign with over 500 farmer members.
“The F2F program is so successful in my opinion, because it works directly with farmers and uses a ground up, community based approach to identifying and addressing community issues and concerns,” said Mr. Amato. “While I was working in the Peace Corps I learned a local proverb that has summarized many of my experiences in Madagascar and my F2F experience in particular. The proverb translates to: people one by one are like sand, but all together we are like stone.”
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