NMSU Partnering with Colombia to Help Local Farmers Rebuild After Years of Conflict

New Mexico State University is helping post-conflict Colombia get back on its feet through the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Farmer-to-Farmer program.

The F2F program “promotes sustainable economic growth, food security and agricultural development worldwide,” according to their website.

The College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences was selected by Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance, a partner organization that works with USAID, to implement a one-year F2F project in August 2017 and sent their first volunteer to Colombia in January 2018.

Each volunteer will go on an all-expenses-paid, two-week assignment with their partnering college, University of La Salle, and their host organization, Salva Terra, a Colombian Non-Governmental Organization that works with marginalized communities in post-conflict areas of that country.

The program is sending out 10 volunteers from now until June. Brenda Seevers, professor in the department of Agricultural and Extension Education, was the first NMSU volunteer in Colombia.

“Colombians are a warm and welcoming people. My knowledge has increased, my eyes have been opened and my heart touched,” she said.

The volunteers going to Colombia include professors, extension agents, one graduate student, and researchers who specialize in certain areas, such as water research.

“The F2F program hopes to help build stronger linkages between La Salle University, community groups such as Salva Terra and local producers,” Seevers said. “If successful, many Colombians will experience a stronger agriculture system and a higher quality of life.”

Luz Urquijo-Hawkes, the F2F program coordinator at NMSU, said volunteering is a “great way for people to offer their skills to make a positive impact on people in need.”

The program not only benefits the people of Colombia, but also offers professional and personal development for the volunteers. Rodrick McSherry, the F2F principal investigator and Director of Global Agricultural Initiatives in the college of ACES, says it is a personally enriching experience for the NMSU community as well.

“The volunteer comes back as a changed person. It’s an opportunity for them to see how their specializations can be used in a different setting,” he said. “It’s good for the individual, it’s good for our institution, and it’s good for New Mexico.”

Once the volunteers come back to Las Cruces, it is not the end of their journey. They will have many opportunities to talk about their experiences with others. NMSU’s Marketing and Communications will interview each of the volunteers when they come back. They will also have the chance to talk to other students and faculty about their time in Colombia.

The F2F program would like to send 10 volunteers to Colombia, and there are currently eight ready to go. They are still taking applications for two more candidates.

Anyone is welcome to apply, and they are especially looking for specialists in the areas of agronomy, water, climate, food safety or any related field. For more information or to apply, please visit their website.

Author: Ximena Tapia – NMSU