Volunteers have a remarkable impact on the communities they serve. That’s why ACDI/VOCA is recognizing six of our outstanding Volunteer Programs participants with the 2022 Charles Cox Excellence in Volunteerism Awards. These awards serve as a tribute to Charles Cox, a passionate supporter of volunteerism who served ACDI/VOCA for more than 30 years. Read more about each of their unique contributions.

Nevil Jackson, a photographer who served in Tanzania and Kenya

Nevil Jackson is a master storyteller from the United States. In October 2019, he completed his first volunteer assignment with ACDI/VOCA visiting the Feed the Future Tanzania NAFAKA II Activity. As a photographer, he captured activities and stories to share online, including on USAID’s Medium blog. His love for adventure, exploring new cultures, and knack for storytelling were an ideal fit against the dynamic and complex work environments that ACDI/VOCA operates in.

A photo by volunteer Nevil Jackson in Tanzania

Last year, the NAFAKA II Activity reached out to Jackson again, requesting his support in generating awareness around how smallholder farmer cooperatives in Tanzania are using sales platforms to implement ICT technologies and create growth. USAID/Tanzania took notice and highlighted this work during several events. Immediately following this assignment, Jackson traveled to Kenya to support the Feed the Future Kenya Livestock Market Systems Activity. He produced a video, shared during the USAID Horn of Africa Resilience Network Annual Learning Month, that captured the economic impact of livestock markets in Northern Kenya.

Nargis Ibragimova, a food safety expert who served in Tajikistan

Food safety is a big component of a successful food-processing family business. Unfortunately, cases of botulism caused by homemade canning are not uncommon in Tajikistan. Nargis Ibragimova is a food safety expert from Tajikistan. Through the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program, Ibragimova volunteered with ACDI/VOCA to teach owners of family businesses in Tajikistan about food safety and illness prevention. Together, Ibragimova joined Clifford Wehner, a food scientist from Illinois, Tasie Ogechunwu, a research fellow from Alabama, and Katherine Penhallegon, a food processing specialist from Oregon, to offer trainings on food safety.

Idigul Odinaeva (center) and her neighbors prepare a recipe they learned from volunteer Nargis Ibragimova.

Participants learned about the proper sterilization of lids and jars, the processing time for water bath canning, and simple recipes for jams and other high-demand foods. Despite limited resources and tools, women who participated took notes as Nargis provided hands-on demonstrations and empowered participants to improve their canning skills and diversify their recipes. One family business, owned by Idigul Odinaeva, reported an increased net income of $860 only three months after completing the training.

Dr. Clive Kaiser and Giorgi Gviniashvili, orchard specialists who served in the Republic of Georgia

Georgia is known for its rich soils and prime conditions for fruit and nut orchards, but producing high yields consistently is a challenge for local growers. In the last four years, Dr. Clive Kaiser has completed five volunteer assignments with ACDI/VOCA in Georgia through the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program.

Volunteers Dr. Clive Kaiser (left) and Giorgi Gviniashvila (right) working with orchard growers in Georgia

In 2021, Dr, Kaiser provided guidance as a remote volunteer, while a local orchard specialist and volunteer, Giorgi Gviniashvili, provided in-person training to apple growers in the north. Upon discovering growers were under-pruning, they emphasized the benefit of pruning in the winter and summer to encourage optimal growth and a balanced, not too top-heavy tree.  

Months later, Dr. Kaiser and Gviniashvili teamed up twice to train pear, cherry, and hazelnut orchard growers in the north and west. They noted excessive topping had resulted in tall cherry trees with no fruiting spurs and taught growers not to prune for two years so that lateral buds on one-year-old wood could turn into fruiting spurs. Among hazelnut tree growers, they identified excessive vegetative growth due to over-fertilization with nitrogen and recommended proper pruning techniques, magnesium and potassium sprays, and removal of key branches to allow sun and wind saturation.

Together, they made an incredible team, and their support resulted in three times more crop yields for each of their volunteer assignments.

Ashot Chobanyan, a poultry expert who served in Armenia

In 2021, Golden Chicken Family Farm requested the support of ACDI/VOCA volunteers through the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program. One such volunteer was Ashot Chobanyan, a local expert who taught the owners of the farm about poultry disease management. Together with U.S.-based volunteers Paul Miller and Gustave Bonkoungou, Ashot provided information on vaccinations, diet, and sanitation. He also provided useful contacts for vaccine providers and veterinarian pharmacies, where farmers could access high-quality medicine and consultations.

Volunteer Ashot Chobanyan visits Golden Chicken Family Farm to vaccinate birds.

In 2022, Golden Chicken Family Farm expanded their farm from 500 to 3,000 chickens, increasing their farm income by nearly three times, thanks to Chobanyan’s recommendations regarding vaccination, lighting, thermal plans, and more. This motivated the owners to work with a branding company and reach new markets for selling their eggs. Chobanyan continues to visit the farm and check on the birds.

Ziming Rao, a finance specialist who served in the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Zambia

Over the past 18 months, Ziming Rao has volunteered six times with ACDI/VOCA in the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Zambia, providing financial management trainings to small business owners both remotely and in person.

Volunteer Ziming Rao (standing center) with trainees in the Kyrgyz Republic

In the Kyrgyz Republic, she partnered with local volunteers Aisuluu Meimankanova and Meerim Shamshieva to provide training sessions on bookkeeping, home budget management, and business planning. One participant, Jazgul Nazarova, even burst into tears when she came to understand that she could become financially independent.

“After receiving the training by Ms. Rao, I now keep detailed records of all my expenses and have been able to save money!” Nazarova said. “I have made sure to teach my children and my grandchildren what I learned too.” Rao’s trainings reached nearly 900 people, including 663 women and 166 youth.

In Tajikistan, Rao interviewed farmers who struggled with recordkeeping and recommended single-entry bookkeeping as a simple method for tracking transactions. Some farmers began using Microsoft Excel templates to keep a journal of sales, purchases, and expenses and an income statement. Rao also helped farmers develop simple business plans, helping them learn how to become more profitable.

In Zambia, Rao led online and in-person trainings with three cohorts of 25 to 30 agricultural small- and medium-sized enterprises on developing business plans to generate growth, employment, and access to finance. Their new business plans acted as a selling tool, allowing them to pursue bank loans and microfinance loans.

Learn more about our Volunteer Programs.