The UW Linking Agriculture and Nutrition in Mexico is a CALS Study Abroad program, which runs for one week in late summer. This program explores food security, agronomy, sustainable agriculture, nutrition, climate change and the environment in Texcoco, Mexico. Students get the opportunity to engage with many researchers, farmers, and Texcoco locals through site visits in the surrounding area. This program is based at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), an agricultural research station one hour from Mexico City.
We asked program leaders Dr. Valentin Picasso Risso, Professor of Agronomy, and Dr. Sherry Tanumihardjo, Professor of Nutritional Sciences, as well as Wai Bwar, a student who participated in this field study last summer, to answer a few questions about their program:
- Why did you choose to develop this program in Mexico?
Tanumihardjo: This program started with William Tracy taking a few graduate students to CIMMYT and visiting local maize fields. When I became the Director of the Undergraduate Certificate in Global Health, I considered this “low-hanging” fruit and developed the current course entitled “Linking Agriculture to Nutrition.” There is a need for nutritionists and agronomists to talk to each other. Without agriculture there is no food, without food there is no nutrition.
- What does the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) do and what’s its relationship with the program?
Picasso Risso: CIMMYT is the place where the Green Revolution started, a transformation of food production through the use of plant breeding and agronomic science, that increased crop yields and food production in many countries like Mexico. However, the new technologies required high inputs of fertilizers and pesticides, with unintended environmental impacts like soil erosion and water pollution. New science and technologies are being developed to reduce this impacts and promote more sustainable systems, using Agroecology as a new framework. This course provides students with a holistic approach to science, agriculture, nutrition and the environment by engaging students in farm visits, group discussions, and reflections.
- What makes this field experience different from other field experiences?
Tanumihardjo: This course has a very high faculty to student ratio. We live together for an entire week. It has a nice balance of agriculture, nutrition and cultural activities.
Picasso Risso: What I love from this course is that we can talk with the students in depth, discuss how food and agriculture and nutrition relate to their future career goals, and inspire them to become active in activities to improve the sustainability of our planet. It is a great short experience for students with a passion for sustainability or global health. It’s really a Wisconsin Idea!
- How does this program engage students with the local community?
Bwar: I experienced first-hand how an organization operates down to individual scale through field work experience. Whether it is talking to farmers, visiting different farms, going to see how tortillas are made, playing soccer with kids, or visiting the Teotihaucan pyramids and visiting, it is really engaging.
- What is something you gained from this program?
Bwar: I learned a lot about intersectionality. Everything is connected in some way. Solving problems require input from multiple sectors like policy making, input from farmers and researchers, collaboration, socioeconomic context, and many other factors that might affect the decisions that people make.
The deadline for this program is Friday, February 15th. You can apply and learn more about this program at www.studyabroad.wisc.edu/CALS.This article was posted in A Message from the Dean.