In 2017, Winrock International awarded Dorene Petersen, President and Founder of the American College of Healthcare Sciences, (ACHS) the President’s Volunteer Service Award, for her 27 day volunteer service with the Agency for International Development-funded Farmer-to-Farmer Program in the Terai, the southern lowland area of Nepal.
Petersen worked with the Forest Environment Workers Union Nepal to train farmers and forest workers—most of them women—to improve their methods of essential oil processing and quality by focusing on teaching certified organic and sustainable practices so they could strategically market essential oils internationally. Without sufficient water resources nearby these women carry heavy containers of water to the fields for irrigation. Petersen's advocacy was instrumental in attaining one hand dug 95 foot well.
“I am so grateful to the hardworking farmers of Sarlahi district who made fantastic use of ACHS's oil to water donation and hand dug a 95 foot well. It took 7 men 6 months and they did not know if they would hit water! My recent visit has been one of the highlights of my life. It was so exciting looking down the well, we could see all the way down to the water. Experiencing the benefits one well can bring is life-changing. Now another well, generator, pump and irrigation pipe is needed to complete the project. These improvements will boost the women’s business, meet bigger harvest demand, create a living wage and prepare for increased water shortage due to global warming,” says Petersen.
An additional well will allow the women to increase their crop and yield, resulting in opportunities to market their essential oil products to fair trade international buyers. In order to attract reputable buyers a continuous and sustainable crop supply is required. Currently the women have very little control over the final essential oil yield and production, and receive barely enough income from their labor to feed their families.
Water represents the entire village's ability to create an income and move from a poverty existence to creating a living wage. Ultimately, the health and education requirements needed to improve the next generation's opportunities and the villages overall way of life can be achieved.
"When we lock arms together with an aim to make a positive difference, we can change the world,” says Petersen.