Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wrapping Up Down Under

This past and final semester at the University of Queensland has been incredibly busy and rewarding. In April, our class of Peace Fellows visited Canberra, Australia’s capital. The trip was arranged through Rotarians in Canberra, and we got a first-hand perspective on just how the Australian government, political system, and civil society agencies operate.

In May, our class hosted the annual Rotary Peace Fellows’ Seminar, titled “PeaceTalks: Peace in Practice” as a culmination of our year and a half at UQ. I talked about my journey as a Peace Fellow, my applied field experience with Roots of Peace Vietnam, and my desire to promote peace through sustainable food systems, equitable trade, and small-scale farmer development. A video of my presentation can be found HERE!

Finally--drum roll please--I graduated with my Master’s of International Studies, Peace and Conflict Resolution in mid-July! Thank you to everyone for your support over the past year and a half—I couldn’t have done it without you! 

Oh happy day!

I didn't want to pay $30 for the this screen shot will have to do. 

Yes--it's real! A real degree!

You are probably asking what I am doing next with my life. After graduating, I realized there are so many people, organizations, and projects here in Southeast Asia that I want to explore--especially those related to small-scale farmers, trade, and development, as well as international higher education. So I will be “travelearning” for the next 3 months.

I am currently in Bangkok, Thailand with my sister, Katrina Lewis, Assistant Professor of Interior Architecture & Product Design at KSU. She is completing a Professional Certificate in Peace and Conflict Resolution as a Rotary Peace Fellow at Chulalongkorn University. We like to joke that peace must run in the Lewis family…many thanks to District 5710 and the Manhattan Rotary Club for helping us to make peace a family affair.

I will be in Bangkok until the end of August, and I then plan to travel to Burma, Lao, and northern Thailand through September and early October. I will then head to East Timor to learn more about the work going on there with small-scale coffee farmer cooperatives and organic coffee production. I am planning a blog to document the adventure and will share the address as soon as it’s live! 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Overdue Update from Oz

For shame! I returned to Australia in mid-February from my 3 month internship with Roots of Peace Vietnam (awesome!), and this is the first post I've managed since. I have a good excuse, though: it's the final semester of my Peace Fellowship and Master's in International Studies, Peace & Conflict Resolution. Things are very busy in Oz, to say the least.

Needless to say, I don't have time to write a unique and original post at this point. Rather than abandon this blog, however, I thought I'd share with you the report from my internship (or Applied Field Experience) in Vietnam. Enjoy!

Summer Lewis
Roots of Peace Applied Field Experience (AFE) Logbook
November 2011 – February 2012


Host Organization: Roots of Peace
Roots of Peace (ROP) is a humanitarian organization dedicated to eradicating landmines worldwide and rehabilitating land and livelihoods. ROP is a 501(c)(3) registered U.S. non-profit organization. ROP projects are located in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Israel/West Bank, Croatia, Kyrgyz Republic, Iraq, Angola, and Cambodia.

Roots of Peace mission statement:
·    “The mission of Roots of Peace is to demine, replant and rebuild post-conflict countries. We work to rid the world of landmines and other remnants of war by transforming toxic minefields into thriving farmland and communities.” (

Background on ROP Vietnam
ROP started working in Vietnam in 2009 with the launch of the “Sustainable Horticulture and Agriculture Development Pilot (SHADE) Project that will focus on working with over 1,100 farmers in the cacao, coffee, bamboo, pepper and eel value chains in Bình Phước and Quảng Trị Provinces.” ( Vietnam seeks to work with existing institutions and therefore involves the Vietnamese government's agriculture department in their work in order to reach as many farmers as possible and provide agricultural training and assistance. ROP Vietnam’s funding comes primarily from private individuals, with some money from ROP.

ROP Vietnam has three offices and nine staff members. The American Country Director divides his time between the three offices:

1. Ho Chi Minh City
Administrative office with 2 accountants
2. Đồng Xoài, Bình Phước Province (2 ½ hours north of Ho Chi Minh City by car)
Cacao project office with Project Manager, 2 Extension Advisors, and Driver
ROP Binh Phuoc staff (left to right): Mr. Tucker Kuhn (Country Director), Nguyn Th Mơ (Extension Advisor), Mr Vi Van Son (Senior Extension Advisor), Summer Lewis (Intern), and Nguyn Quang Ngân (Project Manager)
3. Dong Ha, Quảng Trị Province (Central Vietnam, on the DMZ)
Black pepper project office with Project Manager and Extension Advisor
ROP Quang Tri staff (left to right): Nguyn Quang Ngân (Project Manager), Vo Thi Lien (Extension Advisor), Summer Lewis (Intern), and Nguyn Thanh Binh (Provincial Coordinator)
I spent the majority of my time in Ho Chi Minh City and visited the Bình Phước and Quảng Trị offices multiple times.

Background on Cacao
Around 2004, the Vietnamese government started promoting cacao production in southern Vietnam. This was in response to increasing demand by international chocolate traders and processors for a more stable source of cacao. Since 2004, alliances have been formed between international NGOs, agribusiness, and chocolate companies in an attempt to increase cacao production and quality in Vietnam. However, in certain areas, some of these projects have shown lackluster results and current production is lower than projected.

Cacao pod

ROP started working in Bình Phước Province, a major producer of cashews, in 2009. Cashew farmers can increase their incomes with cacao tress, which grow well under the shade of cashew trees. ROP Vietnam works with the government’s AAEC (Agriculture Aquaculture Extension Committee), the agency responsible for agricultural extension work, to provide effective training for government agents and, by extension, farmers. ROP Vietnam provides subsidized cacao seedlings and fertilizer (farmer pays 40%) and extension services to 844 farmers. The Country Director of ROP Vietnam ultimately wants to incorporate international traders into the project to ensure its longevity and efficacy.

Background on Black Pepper
ROP Vietnam started working in Quảng Trị Province in 2009 to help improve farmers’ incomes through black pepper, a crop that doesn’t take up a great amount of space, can easily be intercropped with other produce, and fetches a good price on the market. ROP Vietnam offers a package to new and existing black pepper farmers, including cuttings, poles, and fertilizer; farmers pay 50% of total project input costs. ROP extension training is offered to farmers, including advice on orchard and irrigation layout and training for planting, fertilizer use, orchard care, harvesting, and marketing.
Black pepper vine

Role in the Organization
I served as a Roots of Peace Intern and reported to the ROP Vietnam Country Director, Mr. Tucker Kuhn.

Start date and end date of AFE period
November 14, 2011 – February 14, 2012

Working Hours
Office staff generally work from 9:00 am – 6:00 pm Monday-Friday in Ho Chi Minh City and 8:00 am – 5:00 pm at the Bình Phước and Quảng Trị project offices. However, a significant portion of work in the Bình Phước and Quảng Trị projects consists of extension work—visiting farmers in the field to carry out M & E (Monitoring and Evaluation), meeting with government officials, etc.—thus schedules vary on a weekly basis.

I worked directly with Mr. Tucker Kuhn and accompanied him to meetings, field visits, and networking gatherings. Thus my schedule mirrored his, and generally aligned with the Ho Chi Minh City, Bình Phước, and Quảng Trị Province office hours.

Objectives/ Terms of Reference
I was assigned the following tasks for my internship by the ROP Vietnam Country Director:

1.  Support Extension staff in field visits and reporting
2.  Work with ROP Program staff to update website reports/articles
3.  Identify compelling farmer stories to highlight for website/donor reports
4.  Assist ROP Program staff in editing program documents/reports
5.  Identify potential donors for expansion of work in Vietnam
6.  Work with Home Office to support online shop in relation to Vietnamese goods
7.  Identify project areas where ROP can directly target activities to support women
8.  Work with project partners to establish a cacao conference

Carrying Out Assigned Tasks
1.  Support Extension staff in field visits and reporting
·    Accompanied ROP Extension staff as they carried out M & E (Monitoring and Evaluation) in Bình Phước and Quảng Trị Provinces and photographed visits
On these trips, ROP Extension Agents and Government Agricultural Extension Agents would drive out into the country, meet with farmers in their fields, record plant survival rates, offer suggestions on plant maintenance (pruning, irrigation, fertilizer application), and answer any questions. 
·    Attended a ROP Vietnam TOT (“Training of the Trainer”) in Quảng Trị where a black pepper expert teaches club leaders, model farmers, and demo farmers how to train other farmers in agricultural “best practices.”
·    Photographed field visits
·    Visited another NGO’s cacao project with ROP staff members and compared project structure, goals, and effectiveness
·    Helped improve the English skills of staff members through conversation and informal English language instruction
ROP Staff Extension Advisor, Lien, explaining black pepper diseases
2.  Work with ROP Program staff to update website reports/articles
·    Provided photographs to ROP staff in the U.S. compiling the Annual Report
·    Created blog during my time in Vietnam, created posts about ROP’s work and my internship, shared posts on the ROP Facebook page
·    Instructed ROP Bình Phước staff in uploading photos to the ROP facebook page and composing photo descriptions
·    Wrote updates for Rotary Clubs in the U.S. and Australia with information on ROP Vietnam, my internship, and my Country Director, a Rotarian from San Francisco

3.  Identify compelling farmer stories to highlight for website/donor reports
·    Brainstormed marketing and fundraising ideas with Tucker
·    Drafted questionnaire for cacao farmers that ROP Extension staff will use to evaluate project benefits to families (especially education); information may also be used to market the ROP Vietnam project to donors
·    Helped connect ROP Vietnam Country Director to a Vietnamese-American student, Pang Her, in Public Relations at Kansas State University (my alma mater) to serve as a marketing consultant for ROP Vietnam
Maintained contact with Pang, providing her background information on ROP Vietnam via email and Skype; looked over her research on a new ROP Vietnam website (layout, general appearance, photos, effectiveness) and farmer questionnaire
·    Arranged for Katrina Lewis, Assistant Professor in Interior Architecture and Product Design at Kansas State University and Rotary Peace Scholar at Chulalongkorn, Thailand, to photograph farmers and ROP Projects

4.  Assist ROP Program staff in editing program documents/reports
·    Designed brochure with information on ROP, ROP Vietnam projects, and photographs; worked with ROP Vietnam Country Director, ROP CEO and Founder, and ROP Executive Director to edit the document; researched copyrighting/trademarking a quote in the brochure
·    Read and summarized a 131-page report on safe pesticide use
The document, “2011 Afghanistan CHAMP PERSUAP Afghanistan Competitive Horticulture and Agriculture Marketing Project Pesticide Evaluation Report and Safe Use Action Plan,” was produced for an ROP project in Afghanistan. I distilled the report down to a little over a page by selecting information that would both summarize the document and could potentially apply to the ROP Vietnam projects.
·    Reviewed documents from an organization in East Timor that is working on an organic coffee project and is seeking a comparison project with ROP in Vietnam

5.  Identify potential donors for expansion of work in Vietnam
·    Researched and compiled a report on websites/tools that donors use to evaluate organizations, websites linking donors to organizations, and general fundraising websites of interest
·    Gained a better understanding of the “politics of aid” and issues related to public/private funding, governance, and bureaucracy

6.  Work with Home Office to support online shop in relation to Vietnamese goods
·    Tucker had initially proposed this task, owing to my background and experience working with a women’s textile cooperative in Guatemala. However, I expressed interest in focusing on cacao and black pepper value chains during my time in Vietnam, and Tucker adjusted my work accordingly.

7.  Identify project areas where ROP can directly target activities to support women
·    Since I have a background in Women’s Studies, Tucker proposed this task in my TOR. For the same reasons stated in point six, the opportunity to further address this task did not materialize. In retrospect, I observed that while women are expected to carry out household reproductive tasks, they also often farm alongside their husbands and assist with farming duties. We even encountered some women who were the primary cacao or black pepper farmers. Thus, I can say that it would be wise to consider existing research and gender-and-development models in order to create an effective means to directly target activities to support women.

8.  Work with project partners to establish a cacao conference
·    Attended the annual International Cocoa Conference in Bến Tre, Vietnam with two ROP Vietnam staff
Bến Tre is considered the most successful area of cacao production in Vietnam. The Conference consisted of four theme streams: Report on Cacao in Vietnam (by province), Production, Technical Aspects and Enhancing Quality. There were a number of NGOs, agribusiness, chocolate companies and government agriculture agencies present. 
·    Researched and compiled a report on commodity associations (types, formation, funding, and principles) and major cocoa and cashew traders, processors, and distributors in Vietnam and worldwide

Attending the International Cocoa Conference
In addition to the above assigned tasks, I:
·    Researched cacao and coffee production, certification schemes, agribusiness, and landmines in Vietnam; shared updates on developments in the cocoa world with ROP Vietnam Country Director
·    Networked with government officials with DOFA (Department of Foreign Affairs), DARD (Department of Agricultural and Rural Development), and AAEC (Agriculture Aquaculture Extension Committee) in Bình Phước and Quảng Trị Provinces
·    Established connections and met with the staff of various companies and NGOs in Vietnam and Cambodia, including:
·    A Manager with Olam Vietnam, one of the largest supply chain management companies worldwide dealing with agricultural products and food ingredients. They are the largest suppliers of cashews, sesame, robusta, and cacao worldwide, and one of the top 5 suppliers of Arabica coffee and work with various “socially responsible” certification programs.  (
·    An Operations Officer with IFC (International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group) Sustainable Business Advisory Services for the Mekong Region
·    A Regional Director for Mars Chocolate (
·    A Regional Director of Sales for Yara International, the “number one global supplier of mineral fertilizers” (
·    A Manager at Joma Bakery Café (Hanoi, Vietnam), a socially responsible business in Laos and Vietnam that is run in association with Hagar International, an “organization committed to the recovery, rehabilitation and community reintegration of women and children who have been victims of human rights abuse in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Vietnam” (
·    Staff at the Global Community Service Foundation, a U.S.-based NGO working “to eradicate poverty in Southeast Asia by implementing sustainable, community-based programs that focus on improving access to health care, education and income-generation activities” (
·    The Director of PeaceTrees, an NGO in Quảng Trị that removes landmines and UXOs (unexploded ordinances), offers survivor assistance, carries out mine risk education, helps build kindergartens and libraries, and offers microcredit (
·    A Fair Trade expert/author familiar with the movement in South/South East Asia (and worldwide) who is interested in “localizing” fair trade
·    Staff at PEPY and PEPY Tours (Promoting Education, emPowering Youth), an international NGO registered in Cambodia and the US: PEPY Tours offers responsible adventure travel options which fund educational programs throughout Cambodia”  (
·    Staff at the Global Initiative to Advance Entrepreneurship (GIVE), an NGO “dedicated to addressing the growing problem of global poverty in the developing world […] by forging complementary relationships between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, and by linking proven models and resources to eventually alleviate global poverty” (
·    Visited Kinyei, “an organization based in Battambang, Cambodia which supports social projects and grassroots enterprise with social media and its platforms for volunteer engagement”  (
·    Attended a Rotary Club meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Kansan in Nam

I've started a separate blog for my 3 months in Vietnam! 
You can sign up to receive posts by email here:
I'll be back on here when I return to Oz in mid-Feburary 2012!

Friday, October 14, 2011


I've been too busy reading and writing about labor as a keystone of the civilizing mission, environmental mediation, and NGOs in complex humanitarian emergencies to get around to writing about FUN stuff. And the semester isn't over yet, so I'm stuck with yet another quick update.

Here's the latest news from Down Under:

  • It's summer here and I'm starting to dress more summery--I was just told that today. Skirts and dresses again.
  • I recently discovered the Korean grocery store near my gym sells frozen edamame. This has seriously improved my life immensely.
  • I only have 2 1/2 weeks of my second semester left! And there's still a lot of work to be done. I think my brain capacity is quickly filling up and I still have another semester to go. I'm wondering if I can buy extra memory, like you can on gmail.
  • I'm going to Vietnam for my internship from November 13, 2011 until February 14, 2012! I'll be working with Roots of Peace in Vietnam, an international humanitarian organization dedicated to eradicating landmines worldwide and rehabilitating land and livelihoods through sustainable agriculture. I'm so excited! Xin chào!

That's it for now. G'day mates.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Red Centre

Last overheard in Summer's brain:

-- "Can you believe she forgot to post her photos from the Red Centre on her blog?"

-- "No kidding! And to make matters worse, she was too lazy to post individual photos--she had the nerve to post a Facebook photo album link."

-- "I sure hope she's better at keeping up with her classes than she is with her blog."

Summer blushes and posts photos from the trip to Uluru and the Red Centre. And returns to her coursework.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Break from Civilization in Cairns

While my body and mind are back at uni, my blog is still begging to tell the story of our travel through Australia. But since my blog can't write itself, and I'm quite busy with reading about development and neoliberalism (again!), this entry about our trip to Cairns will be quite short. A bit like our trip.

First and foremost, Cairns is pronounced "cans." I can't tell you how many times Kat and I have been corrected for pronouncing the "r" and saying "carns." This might be because the "r" is clearly a letter that forms part of the word. It might also have something to do with the fact that we Kansans have a special relationship with the letter "r." Yeah, we pronounce it. How weird is that?

So our linguistically-challenged sisterly duo traveled up to Cairns directly from Melbourne (again, don't pronounce the "r") and promptly shed about 3 layers of clothing upon arriving in this sunny northern Queensland town. We stayed in a lovely little hostel, the Travellers Oasis, which we would highly recommend to anyone seeking a quiet, clean place with a kitchen and pool, in a good location. We only had three full days in Cairns, so we opted for day trips. This was a bit exhausting, but the best option on our limited time. (There's not much to do in Cairns at all, so you basically use it as a jumping off point for the natural wonders surrounding it).

Day 1: Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef!

The Outer Reef

Day 2: Tour of the Atherton Tablelands, seeing big trees, waterfalls, and PLATYPUSES IN THE WILD!

Monotremes! (BTW that's not my head in the photo--there was another ranga on the trip)

Day 3: Whirlwind tour up to Cape Tribulation (where Captain Cook was having some major issues and hence gave a lot of landmarks depressing names) through the Daintree Rainforest. The beautiful sights thankfully drowned out the annoying driver's rambling about all his problems and opinions. I got the feeling that he would have gladly abandoned our tour bus for a beer if it didn't involve him getting fired.

Crocodile warning sign at the Daintree River ferry crossing

We thought about feeding our annoying tour guide to those crocs...

For all the photos and commentary, check out my facebook photos (which should be available for anyone to view): Cairns Trip Photos

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Marvelous Melbourne

Kat and I returned to Brissy (pronounced “bri-zee”) at the end of June after a lovely week in Sydney. I had to finish just one more (grrrrr) paper (done now, grade not yet known) and we had quite a bit of laundry to do. Plus we had to figure out where we were off to next. We knew we were going to Melbourne (pronounced “mel-ben”), and we wanted to also go to Cairns (pronounced “cans”). Usually I’m the one in our duo who does the travel planning, but writing about globalization for weeks on end had muddled my globe trotting skills. So Kat and I found a lovely travel agent at the chain travel agency, Flight Centre, and booked our trip from Brisbane to Melbourne to Cairns, then back to Brisbane (pronounced “bris-ben”). (The idea of visiting a travel agent to book a flight, at least for me, is totally foreign. In the US, I book all my flights online to get the cheapest deals. If there’s an equivalent online in Australia, I have yet to find it. But, in the end, it’s ok, as I prefer to book my flights with a human, rather than a computer).

While in Melbourne, Kat and I stayed with our AUW friend, Varuni, and her husband, Sunny, and brother-in-law, Ash. They were wonderful hosts, feeding us excellent food, showing us the sights, and letting us bask in the warmth of a centrally heated home. Varuni helped outfit us to better endure the cold, rainy, and gray Melbourne weather when we did venture out. Like Kansas, if you don’t like the weather in Melbourne, wait a bit and it will change. Or, as they say, “four seasons in one day!” I think we saw the sun for a total of 15 minutes in 6 days.

Sunny, Varuni, Kat and Me enjoying a cuppa
Loving this latte
However, what Melbourne lacks by way of sunshine it more than makes up for in culture and coffee. I was blown away by the museums, wine bars, cafes, and food food food. We met up with our friend Monique, whom we met in 2003 while traveling in Spain and Portugal, and feasted on some delicious Chinese fare at Lau’s Family Kitchen. Afterwards, Monique and I enjoyed a concert by Alex Gao (from Oh Mercy) and Dan Sultan at the National Theatre. Dan Sultan’s looks and sounds left me in a lightheaded state. Granted, a lot of that may have had to with the fact that we were sitting near the top of the theatre, where the heat rises and the very large man sitting next to me smelling of cat worsened as the night wore on. Nonetheless, the pleasures of sight and sound far outweighed olfactory discomfort.
Reunited with Ms. Melbourne!
Fabulous Flinders Station
and Federation Square
Funky graffiti alley
Speaking of sights and sounds, Kat and I happened to be in Melbourne over the school holidays. This meant loads of screaming children being hauled around by their parents to free museums. So why Kat and I chose to visit the Melbourne Museum—the coolest museum of them all with no entry fee for children—during this time is a mystery. I suppose we should have thought it through a bit more: school holidays + free museum + dinosaurs + insects + lots of stuffed animals = re-thinking of having children. I’m starting to consider adopting—a koala.
Plenty of stuffed animals to terrify many a child at the Melbourne Museum
My future as a mother
We were able to swiftly recover from the trauma thanks to Varuni and Sunny whisking us away to the Dandenong Range. A ride through the beautiful scenery—and a strong cappuccino and the best flourless chocolate raspberry cake ever—renewed our spirits and sanity.
Caffeine and cakes--all in a day's work
Mmmmmmmmm, marvelous Melbourne—I will be back! When it’s warmer, with my koala and my light box.
For a play-by-play of the trip, check out my photos HERE!
Next up on the Great Aussie (pronounced "Ahh-zee") Adventure: Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef, and PLATYPUSES IN THE WILD!