Dr. David Fernandez Receives President’s Volunteer Service Award for Second Time

Will Hehemann School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences1

Dr. David Fernandez, interim assistant dean of academic programs and Extension livestock specialist for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences (SAFHS), recently received the President’s Volunteer Service Award. The award recognizes U.S. citizens and lawfully-admitted, permanent residents of the United States who have achieved a required number of hours of service over a 12-month time period or cumulative hours over the course of a lifetime.

Dr. Fernandez received the award for the volunteer work he conducted in 2018 with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Farmer-to-Farmer program in southwestern Nepal with the Beautify Nepal Association. There, he helped local goat farmers optimize their production practices.

“Our School is very proud of Dr. Fernandez and his achievement,” Dr. Muthusamy Manoharan, interim dean/director for SAFHS, said. “He sets an example for others to take action and make a difference locally, nationally and internationally.”

During his volunteer work in the Surkhet District of Nepal, Dr. Fernandez helped local producers learn how to breed goats appropriately for hardiness (health). Goat farming is an important source of income in the area, especially among women. Despite recent increases in production, the farmers haven’t always been able to earn more money.

Over the course of the program, Dr. Fernandez emphasized the importance of developing a good record-keeping system and implementing a rotational breeding system. These measures help reduce inbreeding and ensure larger, healthier offspring for sale.

Because goats in Nepal are susceptible to many of the same parasites found in Arkansas, Dr. Fernandez recommended the farmers use the FAMACHA method to detect internal parasites such as barber pole worms for more effective treatment and to select goats that are resistant to these parasites.

Dr. Fernandez received the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2014 for work with two non-governmental organizations in Bangladesh, the Jagorani Chakra Foundation and Naifa Maruf Foundation.

His other volunteer experience includes a trip to Kenya coordinated by the Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture organization to work with the Kenya Leather Development Council. All three volunteer projects were supported by USAID grants.

Extension volunteer work with farmers in the developing world can have a tremendous, positive impact on communities, Dr. Fernandez said.

“The advice and training you give has the potential to help a family lift itself out of poverty, improve the safety and status of rural women and allow children the opportunity to go to school so they can have a brighter future rather than stay home and work,” he said. “Farmers and host organizations take all you have to say to heart, put it into practice and create systems that reinforce what they have learned so other farmers in the region can benefit long after you have gone.”

Dr. Fernandez said the farmers’ gratitude and host organizations’ appreciation for a volunteer’s willingness to travel across the world to help them is often overwhelming.

“They really find it hard to believe that someone from America – a nearly mythical place where everyone has all they could want or need – would be willing to meet them where they are and offer to help them be successful,” he said.

During his travels, Dr. Fernandez always learns something new to take back and share with the farmers or students he works with in the U.S.

“The new perspective you gain on agriculture in America and elsewhere is priceless,” he said.

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