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UW-RF Receives Grant For Nicaragua Exchange

Two UW-River Falls professors from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences have received a grant for $103,000 from the United States Agency for International Development to fund an agricultural exchange program between UW-RF and the Universidad Nacional Agraria in Managua, Nicaragua.

Department chair and animal science Professor Tony Jilek and agricultural economics Professor Emeritus Jerry Nolte will oversee a plan to establish mentoring relationships with UNA faculty and improve the English language skills of the faculty.

According to Jilek, the objective is for five or six UW-RF faculty members and six Nicaraguan professors from UNA to participate in an exchange. UW-RF grants and research Director Bill Campbell and a UNA administrator will exchange visits as well.

Because of financial constraints, teachers in Nicaragua seldom go to the best schools. UW-RF faculty will work closely with them to help improve their knowledge base and their teaching skills. Because the vast majority of technical and scientific work in agriculture is published in English, it is important for faculty members to be fluent in English.

"Over a period of 18 months in 2003 and 2004, the Nicaraguan teachers will shadow their UW-RF counterparts, observing teaching methods in classes, engaging in research and getting to know the students," Jilek said.

"The agriculture-related topics they will focus on include forage, agricultural marketing, professional selling, agricultural financial management, animal nutrition, and soil and water conservation. They will also be taken to visit businesses, such as dairy farms and feed producers, to see firsthand how they are run."

Two of the UNA faculty members will be here for about four weeks during the summer. The other four will visit in early January for about 10 weeks. UW-RF faculty will travel to Nicaragua during school breaks, in summer and in January.

Jilek, whose area of expertise is animal science and genetics, said he plans to be in Nicaragua the summer of 2004 for two to three weeks. Nolte will visit in November, to work with his counterpart there on computer simulations of management programs.

Jilek, who is fluent in Spanish, began working in Nicaragua in 1971, when he taught at Central American University. Since 1981 he has worked with Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners. More recently, he has worked with UCA through the Farmer-to-Farmer Program, a USDA-funded program designed to promote agricultural development and allow agriculturists to share technology.

Nolte and Jilek were most recently in Nicaragua in July 2001, working with UNA through the Farmer-to-Farmer program assisting faculty in becoming more proficient as teachers.

Jilek said Nicaragua has had many setbacks in the form of natural disasters, including hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, tidal waves and droughts, in addition to civil wars. What it needs most to overcome these setbacks is education. So many people are uneducated, and qualified teachers at any level are scarce, Jilek said.

Although the country is not particularly rich in natural resources, it has land that could be productive if the people were educated to use it. There are mountains where coffee can grow, other mountainous areas that can support dairy and beef cattle, and lowlands on the Pacific Coast for crops.

Wisconsin and Nicaragua are partner states in Partners of the Americas, a nonprofit organization that pairs U.S. states with Latin American and Caribbean countries. Within the program, Hudson and River Falls are partner cities to Ocotol, a city of about 30,000 in Northern Nicaragua.


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