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UW-RF to Help Mexican Professors, Ag Producers
By Jenny Bjelland
UW-RF News Bureau
MARCH 24, 2005--The farmers of the Tierra Caliente or "hot land"
region of Mexico work hard to produce corn, papaya, tomatoes, watermelon,
mangos, cattle, sheep, poultry, goats, fish and bees.
However, the region's production chains also face a large number of problems.
High production costs, lack of technology, scant packaging facilities,
parasites and diseases, along with few structured agricultural organizations,
trade systems, and market knowledge only contribute to the extremely high
poverty level in the region.
"There is tourism and trade or commercialization and then agriculture,"
says Christina Albarran Farias, a professor of production management and
international marketing at the Instituto Tecnológico Agraria No.
25 in Altomirano, Mexico. "It is a very productive region of Mexico,
but also a very poor region. The Guerrero state within the Tierra Caliente
region is the third poorest state in all of Mexico."
A grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development will partner
the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and ITA-25, an agricultural university
with more than 1,200 students, to help build an agricultural infrastructure
and a producer education system to overcome the poverty-induced obstacles
of Tierra Caliente’s agricultural industry.
The $237,000 grant was awarded to UW-RF and agricultural economics Professor
Gregg Hadley by the USAID Association Liaison Office for University Cooperation
in Development and the U.S.-Mexico Training, Internships, Exchanges, and
The purpose of the grant is "to help rural Mexican colleges to further
develop their faculty's knowledge in subjects that will help to improve
their rural economies," says Hadley. "In the end this will hopefully
lead to the development of a producer’s school in the Tierra Caliente
region where producers can learn to solve their own problems."
Albarran Farias is the first of seven ITA-25 scholars to travel to UW-RF
within the next year and a half. She was selected because she speaks English
and has experience working with producers. Recently, she has been working
to organize the mango producers and to work with them to create a marketing
"Obviously you cannot get a producer who is 50 years old and does
not know how to read or write into a standard collegiate classroom setting,"
says Farias. "Learning has to come through experience and through
verbal explanations. So I think this program will help a lot with the
idea of bringing education directly to the producers through the use of
entrepreneurs' or producers' education programs."
Spending two semesters at UW-RF, ITA-25 scholars will be involved in both
classroom training and field instruction. The professors from ITA-25 also
will receive training in adult education and classroom training in agribusiness
or management to increase their knowledge in economics and the tactics
involved with marketing agricultural products.
In addition, through one-on-one work with county- and state-level UW Extension
faculty, Farias and the remaining scholars will learn to organize, implement
and evaluate extension programs. They will also investigate actual producer-owned
agribusinesses throughout Wisconsin.
As the faculty members of ITA-25 return to the Tierra Caliente region,
they will begin to establish their own extension-type adult producer education
programs. Upon completion of those programs, UW-RF faculty members and
UW-Extension faculty will travel to Altamirano, Mexico, to evaluate and
help improve the ITA-25 faculty programs.
The endeavor is special one for UW-RF, notes Hadley, as UW-RF's grant
proposal was the only higher education partnership grant accepted from
a small university not collaborating with a larger one. UW-RF also was
the only school to choose to aid and educate one of the poorer Mexican
Without this grant, the array of small producers within the Tierra Caliente
region would continue to struggle producing, marketing and adding value
to their products.
"The producers are very smart, but they don't have the accurate knowledge
for so many things," said Farias. "They don't have the tools--financial,
or even educational tools that could help to better their work--to make
Tuesday, 22-Jun-2010 16:21:21 Central Daylight Time