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In July 2013, the MDP Program was awarded a grant from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Public Education for Peacebuilding Support (PEPS). The grant was made possible by a cost-sharing commitment from the Center for Latin American Studies, Center for African Studies, and the UF International Center. The objective of the grant was to enhance the understanding of international peacebuilding and conflict resolution concepts and strategies among UF graduate students, faculty and others interested in the theme via a seminar series and workshop organized through the MDP Practitioner Forum Series.
UF students and faculty from multiple departments carry out fieldwork with international communities at local, regional and national levels, many of which have been impacted by past or present conflict. Developing a basic understanding of the concepts and skills related to conflict resolution and peacebuilding is important to students in graduate programs linked to Centers like Latin American and African Studies. USIP grant activities were designed to generate a greater awareness of, and interest in, international conflict resolution and peacebuilding among students by providing examples and encouraging discussion of the theme.
Three seminar events, organized and facilitated by MDP Program Coordinator Cindy Tarter with support from LAS Faculty member Jonathan Dain, were held on September 26th, October 17th and November 4th. The four invited speakers, Eric Hubbard, Dr. Joseph Sebarenzi, Judy Anderson, and Virginia Searing are each actively engaged in international work connected to conflict and peace in regions of Africa and/or Latin America and they shared their experiences with nongovernmental organizations, the United Nations and, in the case of Joseph Sebarenzi, his own government in Rwanda. The diverse approaches and stories presented included experiences from Guatemala, DR Congo, Rwanda, Liberia, Angola and South Sudan.
Specific seminar topics included theoretical analyses of conflict work as “development”, advice for future practitioners working in areas impacted by conflict, the mental health needs common to post-conflict regions, the role of women in peacebuilding, and personal experiences of surviving conflict and genocide. An emergent theme throughout the series was the challenge and importance of forgiveness as an element of the post-conflict reconciliation process.
The final activity funded by the USIP grant was an integrative and experiential Peacebulding workshop held on November 15th for MDP Students. The workshop incorporated and built upon the themes from the three seminars while providing conceptual tools designed to grow peacebuilding and conflict resolution skills and knowledge.
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The Sustainable Development Practice (SDP) Certificate provides hands-on training in interdisciplinary knowledge and skills in sustainable development for researchers and practitioners, integrating social, health, natural and management sciences. To obtain the certificate, students at the Master’s level are required to take 12 credits, while PhD students must complete 15 credits of required coursework.
Mary Rodriguez is currently earning an SDP certificate as part of her PhD in Agricultural Extension and Development, in which she is focusing on community development, food security, and gender.
Mary’s interest in agricultural education began several years ago, during her undergraduate experience at Texas A&M, where she became certified to teach high school classes in agricultural sciences. During her Master’s program at UF, Mary was able to apply her skills on an international level, serving as a study abroad course coordinator at Earth University in Guasimo Costa Rica, where she designed and recruited international participants for a course on rural sustainable development.
Following her Master’s program, Mary served in the Peace Corps in northern Cameroon, conducting capacity-building activities with rural women working in agricultural activities. She designed and implemented a program to strengthen the organizational capacity of these women, leading trainings about groupwork, elections, budgeting, record-taking, leadership, communication, and time management.
The SDP certificate was a natural fit for Mary’s experiences and interests, and she is especially interested in gaining a theoretical background in development theory to complement and give depth to her on-the-ground experience. She feels that as the certificate draws from many academic areas, it is well-suited for giving her a holistic and well-rounded picture of the interconnected nature of development.
Mary feels that the SDP certificate also complements her career goals – she plans to work in higher education, preparing future development practitioners for work in international contexts. She is especially interested in teaching about participatory research methods, organizational change, international communication and leadership, and agricultural extension.
For more information about the SDP certificate, please visit: http://www.africa.ufl.edu/mdp/academicprograms/sdpcertificate.html
The Global Association of Master’s in Development Practice Programs, in collaboration with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, hosted the First International Conference on Sustainable Development Practice on September 6-7, 2013 at Columbia University in New York City. The theme of the conference was Advancing Evidence-Based Solutions for the post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda.
This was the first annual conference of its type, organized by the Global Association of MDP programs and the Organizing and Scientific Communities. This global organization is made up of the 24 MDP programs worldwide: 3 in Africa, 7 in Asia, 3 in Europe, 3 in Latin America, and 8 in North America. Jeffrey Sachs currently serves as the president of the MDP Global Association.
Several UF MDP students, alumni and faculty were in attendance at the conference. Core faculty member Renata Serra led a session on sustainable agriculture and food systems, discussing collective action as a solution to enhance women small-scale farmers’ access to markets. Assistant faculty member Thomas Ankerson also led a session on discussing clinical legal education in support of sustainable development.
Suni Brito, a first-year MDP student, collaborated with MDP alumni Kristen Augustine to lead a session on their experience with building networks and social capital among women in Jordan.
Hans Goertz, a second-year student, participated in a poster session networking activity, presenting his experience with implementing tree-planting strategies in Haiti. First-year student Alex Sprague also presented a poster on her experience working with nomadic gardens in Mongolia.
The conference was a great networking opportunity for UF MDP staff, faculty, and students, who had a chance to meet with several other MDP affiliates from around the world.
The Life and Times of the Campesino
I would like to share with you an excellent fieldwork experience I recently had in several of the farming communities located on the outskirts of Popayán, one of the oldest colonial cities in Colombia. Our team worked with CCAFS on a project related to climate change and its effects on agricultural production. In this region the effects of climate change have been noted by campesinos as climate variability, such as the intensity of wet and dry seasons, with longer or shorter rainy seasons. These effects of climate change can impact men, women, and children within farming families differently. Such gender differences are often overlooked in development work. For the last three months, I participated in a research project to address how climate change impacts farming families and how they are adapting.
Our research consisted of working alongside a campesino organization called ASOCAMPO and our partners at the Fundación Rio Piedras and the Acueducto. At first, the pace was slow, just like in all development work we had to organize contacts and a way to visit the communities which caused the initial lag. However, by the end, we were able to visit 27 households and interviewed a total of 36 participants from the subcuenca Rio Piedras. This subcuenca, which is a small watershed basin, is divided up into three regions; parte baja (lower), parte media (middle), and parte alta (higher). We visited each section and I was amazed to see the similarities, as well as the differences, among these regions.
For instance, the parte baja, which is the lowest region, is the only part of the cuenca that can grow coffee. This section has the right temperature to cultivate a variety of crops including banana and plátano which cannot be grown in the parte alta. In recent years, rising temperatures has caused a chemical reaction that affects certain crops called “chimisquina,” this process occurs after it rains and it becomes extremely hot the leaves on the plant burn causing crop damage if the plants are not cleaned. Additionally, because it is a little more populated than the higher regions of the cuenca, the size of the farms are smaller.
The parte media is an interesting case because of past struggles over land rights. This region was once dedicated to large farms called “terrateniente” created during colonization. The natives of this area were called “terrajeros” and were only permitted to live on these large farms if they did most of the work. Because of land reformation efforts by the country these large farms were divided and available for purchase. This is important to understand about the region today because most of the people we interviewed live on what used to be the terrateniente, meaning that campesinos do not possess a land title but still work the land privately. Because they have lived there for generations, they have the right to buy the land. Despite this option to purchase, the land is difficult to afford so the campesinos tend to just pay rent and grow crops. What also makes this region an interesting case, is that a lot of the members we interviewed had previously owned land collectively but now hold private titles to the land or are in pursuit of one. By obtaining private ownership of land, people that were indigenous are redefined as campesinos because collective land is a central part of indigenous identity. As a result, a struggle over land between those claiming private land titles and those fighting for collective land rights caused a rift between campesinos and indigenous. This land conflict issue wasn’t resolved until 1983 after the massive earthquake that affected Popayán and the subcuenca.
In the parte alta, which is about 2600-2900 meters above sea level, is the highest in the cuenca. This area is dedicated mainly to livestock and trout production, because this region is high in elevation, cold, and it is difficult to plant some types of crops. Therefore, most houses in this region have “huertas,” which are small gardens dedicated to producing food for household consumption. However, because of rising temperatures resulting from climate change, most of the participants we interviewed have tried planting new crops in the region, such as yuca. A large part of income for this section comes from selling milk, cheese, and fresh trout. What is also important to note here are that majority of women milk the cows, process the milk, make cheese, manage the trout farms, and harvest the fish they sell to the market. Also, campesinos dedicate part of their land to “reservas,” which are land set aside to preserving natural forests and planting new trees, to protect natural water sources and trees.
Despite the fact that we would spend two-hours at each household viewing the farms and conducting our questionnaire, these people were all happy to oblige. After, we would thank them for their time; they would turn around and say “no, thank you for your time,” which alludes to how friendly these people are. What was amazing was that every participant we had the chance to meet grew their own diversity of food for household consumption. Around 85% of our participants never had to buy vegetables throughout the year because they grew enough vegetables to consume for the entire year. This was mostly because of the women. One finding from our study was that a majority of the women are in charge of taking care of the household garden and small livestock like chickens, rabbits, and guinea pigs.
Women are also in charge of selling products they had produced on the farm in the market. I went to a local market in Popayán called La Esmeralda and talked with a few women venders. One woman I met was from a community close to where we worked. I asked her why she liked to travel to this market to sell her items and she said it was because it was easier for her to sell all of her products. I asked if she also liked to come here to socialize and she looked at me and smiled and said “of course, this is where I can meet new people and talk with my friends.” I was also able to speak to an indigenous woman from Silvia which is approximately 2 hours from Popayán. Her reason for traveling that distance to sell her products was because it has “always been a way life for them (the indigenous from Silvia).” What I found interesting was that this group of indigenous travel every weekend from Silvia to Popayán just to sell their products although the cost of travel means that they may not make as large of a profit as they would selling closer to home. I definitely learned a lot through my three month stay in Popayan. The campesinos I had the pleasure of meeting are remarkable individuals and I admire their perseverance towards creating a better future for themselves and their children. This is Seth signing out of Cali.
I’m wrapping the final week of my summer field practicum in the Cauca Department of Colombia, where I’m working as a visiting researcher for the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). I’ve worked alongside two other visiting researchers – Seth, a fellow MDP student, and Mariola Acosta, an agronomy graduate student from Spain – on CIAT’s “Gender Analysis Team,” as part of a project on climate change adaptation strategies. Our objective was to collect sex-disaggregated data on productive activities, access to information, resource use and decision-making within the household, to better understand local agricultural systems and social networks.
Last week the team attended a workshop organized by our main local partner, La Fundación ProCuenca Río Piedras, a non-profit entity that works out of the Popayán Municipal Aqueduct Service towards water, food and land security in the Río Las Piedras Watershed region. The workshop was organized for members of the Custodios de Semillas program, a dynamic project that brings together both campesino and indigenous farmers in the region to conserve native seed varieties – and therefore the area’s incredible crop diversity – while at the same time finding ways to make those crops commercially viable.
The Custodios de Semillas workshop was fun, educational and in some ways, intimate. Many of the attendees are friends, and despite some regional tension between the campesino and indigenous populations both sides come together for this really important project. The group is part of a larger program originally started by GIZ in the region: Alertas AgroClimaticas Tempranas (SAAT), an initiative run through La Fundación ProCuenca Río Piedras. The SAAT team trains local farmers to participate in climate and bio-indicator monitoring, and does strategic farm planning with local producers. Workshops like these cover a variety of relevant local topics including recent weather patterns and climate trends, integral pest management practices, organic fertilizer practices, advice on seed selection, and recommendations to commercialize products.
The workshop was bittersweet, not least because at this point we have developed a really warm and friendly relationship with many of the local farmers. During our time in Popayán, our “Gender Team” designed and implemented a mixed qualitative – quantitative pilot survey that reached about one-third of the campesino farming population in the area. Each farm visit began with a tour of the property, and as often as possible we conducted intra-household surveys (the challenges of which you can read more about here).
This region is noted for its dynamic environmental programs and well-organized communities. In addition to the survey, my research project has included numerous interviews with key community stakeholders, and collaboration on three community workshops, where our team utilized a variety of participatory activities, such as Seasonal Calendars, Venn Diagrams, and Historical Timelines. Subsequent analysis will contribute to ongoing research methodology – both for CIAT and our local partners – on gender and climate change adaptation strategies in the Cauca region.
Fifteen years ago I came with my family for holiday to the Galapagos Islands. I never thought I was going to come back and work in sustainable development here. I am a native of Quito, Ecuador, and coming back has felt refreshing, and encouraging! I have been in the island of Santa Cruz for over a month now. It is a beautiful place, where sea lions, Darwin finches and birds all nest. This enigmatic island is also the most populated one, with more than 15,000 inhabitants. People here make a good sociological cocktail, as one walks down the cobblestone-paved streets of Puerto Ayora, one can hear Quechua, Spanish, Chinese, Dutch, German and an intense array of English accents. At night, the pier gets lit up and the environment is filled with vendors that sell artifacts, and the smell of fresh grilled seafood invades the place. The highland part of the island is lush with vegetation that grows intensively, the green carpets of native and invasive species are home for the agricultural farms. Here, people are quieter. Dark red crushed lava rocks leads to hiking routes and different homes. Transportation in the island of Santa Cruz is unique from water taxis, to open-air buses called chivas; from over packed bicycles to the only found vehicle around the island – white trucks that act like taxis.
The Galapagos are overcrowded with people. National and international organizations fight to preserve the unique flora and fauna. But, parallel to the nature conservancy there is a fight that has been awakened, the abandonment of the agricultural sector in the highland. Almost all of the population has shifted to the tourism sector, that grows fast and uncontrollably. All the food is imported daily from mainland Ecuador. Most farms in the area do not have incentives, a clear vision, or steps to get organized and maximize their lands. There is also the challenge of illegal population and migrant reforms, which seems tougher than the one from estates….
I have been working with Ecuador Tierra Viva Foundation http://www.ecuadortierraviva.org, a young entrepreneur non-profit organization based in Quito, Ecuador. They have asked me to elaborate a report with the socio-economic findings for the highland region of the island; and to implement participatory methodology for planning local farms, putting it in action in two different properties that vary by scale. The tools I have used so far include visioning, mapping, design charettes, and surveys. The aim is to give the final deliverables to Ecuador Tierra Viva Foundation as the starting point in their efforts to aid the agricultural sector in the highlands of Santa Cruz, Galapagos.
It has been a good surprise to see the interdisciplinary and cross socio-economical aid provided for the project. I spent my first weeks literally walking and running from one governmental institution to the other. Everyone has been ready to collaborate and provide valid resources and tips. Looking back, I wish I had walked around with a tape recorder; it only takes few minutes after I introduce myself for people to begin sharing their stories and perspectives about the agricultural sector and the lack of planning.
I only have few weeks remaining, although the initial intent from my proposal to the reality of the island has changed a little bit. I have truly enjoyed every detail of this field practicum. I am in awe of creation. I am glad I have used my background in Landscape Architecture and speaking the language with the community has been comfortable, energizing, and extremely useful; the generosity of the locals and their warm friendship has been beyond appreciated. I am glad I got the opportunity to contribute back to my homeland, Ecuador. Definitely a place that I look forward to returning in the future!