EARTH is education with a purpose. While we produce capable professionals, we would fail if we stopped there. Our true objective is to prepare ethical leaders to construct a prosperous and just society. This purpose guides how we teach and is why at EARTH our formal and informal curriculum is founded on creating transformative learning experiences.
Perhaps no other course within our model better exemplifies this than the Community Experience. During the second and third year of study, the rural communities of the tropics surrounding EARTH’s two campuses become our students’ classroom. Students work side-by-side with small farmers and community members in developing new projects and overcoming challenges. While contributing to the goals of a family or community, our students develop a lasting commitment to promoting thriving rural communities and social justice.
In this issue of EARTH Connections I invite you to read about the Community Experience and both its immediate and far-reaching impact.
The farmer who sees the potential of his farm in a new light;
The student whose eyes are opened to both the will and needs of small farmers;
The alumni who dedicate their lives to promoting environmental sustainability as an economic opportunity for rural communities;
The donor who is having an immediate impact in one community while making possible a transformative educational experience for hundreds of students…
They, you and we form part of a circle of positive change whose impact will ripple outward for generations to come.
At his farm in the community of Las Lomas (which means “The Hills” in Spanish), aloe producer Wilberth Carranza exuberantly speaks of his plans to expand his chicken coop and install a bio-digester to produce methane for cooking fuel.
The coop was built with help from EARTH students who, as part of EARTH’s Community Development Program, have been collaborating with Wilberth and his wife Maribel every Wednesday for the past 10 months.
“Before the EARTH students came, I thought I couldn’t do things because I didn’t have enough money to buy the materials, but they have helped me see that it is possible to do a lot with the resources I have,” remarks Wilberth.
Up the hill is a newly constructed greenhouse with beds made from the stones that abound in the farm’s soils. There he is growing vegetables and making compost.
Wilberth credits the ingenuity of EARTH students for helping him get the project started: “A student told me, ‘Wilberth, you’re going to have to become friends with the rocks.’ They told me that the rocks contain calcium carbonate which can help improve the soil.”
“Now we don’t have to buy vegetables. We can grow what we eat,” proudly remarks Wilberth, who plans to expand the greenhouse and start producing medicinal plants commercially. He’ll be getting help over the next 14 weeks from EARTH students Claudia Loyola (‘15, Ecuador) and José Daniel Aguilar (‘15, Costa Rica).
The students, with the support of EARTH professors and staff, are also working with Wilberth to process his aloe. Wilberth currently sells whole aloe leaves directly to health food stores. Processing the leaves into an aloe concentrate could increase his profit 10-fold. Students have helped stabilize and purify the sticky aloe flesh, and are now supporting his efforts to secure the Health Ministry certification.
Claudia and José have also identified a threat to Wilberth’s aloe plantation: a worm is attacking the roots of some of his aloe plants. The students took samples to EARTH’s pest management professor and are working on a control and prevention plan.
The Caranza farm is just one of 14 farms in Las Lomas hosting second-year students, and while producers get valuable support, they also give students a priceless learning experience.
José Daniel knows the experience will not only strengthen his scientific knowledge of aloe vera, but also increase his sensitivity to the needs and aspirations of rural farmers, whom he says, “have a great will to develop, but often lack technical support.”
From July 29-31, EARTH University hosted the International Banana Congress with more than 30 speakers from five continents giving presentations relating to sustainable banana production, including: plant breeding, food security, agricultural management and carbon neutrality. The program featured renowned experts in the field, including Dr. Yin Ganyun from the Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences in China, who shared his most current results from his research in Africa on Panama disease (a serious root disease). Also at the conference was Dr. Howard Ferris from the University of California Davis, who discussed the ecosystemic role of nematodes in banana plantation soils.
For the third year in a row, EcoRomería was successful in promoting the importance of proper waste management for some two million participants of Costa Rica’s largest religious pilgrimage. Led by EARTH University and the Costa Rican Environmental Ministry, the project placed more than 70 waste classification stands throughout the approximately 13 miles of the pilgrimage route. Some 1,200 volunteers and students ran the stations, resulting in a 95 percent efficiency rate in the correct classification of waste. In addition, 1,704 pounds of organic waste were collected and sent out for composting.
In the first week of September, 100 third-year students departed to 26 countries for their 15-week internships.
The internships are a graduation requirement and are an essential experience for students, who have the opportunity to apply the knowledge they have gained at EARTH in a real working environment. Students select internship topics based on their career and academic interests, and this year will be working in organic vegetable production, rural extension, livestock management, post-harvest processing and soils.
This year, many students have succeeded in finding new internships in Indonesia, China, Japan, New Zealand, the Dominican Republic, Peru and Honduras that have never been completed by prior EARTH students.
This July, EARTH participated in the AgroExpo in Colombia for the fifth consecutive year. The AgroExpo is the largest agricultural supply, livestock and agribusiness exhibition in Latin America, and represents an important opportunity to attract potential students and strategic partners. The University’s stand, staffed by EARTH alumni and collaborators, reached an audience of more than 240,000 attendees, who had the opportunity to learn about EARTH’s impact around the world.
EARTH alumni from Colombia, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic also gathered at the booth to share their experiences with visitors. In addition, during the event EARTH’s Alumni Association (AGEARTH) in Colombia renewed its Board of Directors as well as its commitment to improving communications, supporting new graduates entering the labor market, identifying new business opportunities and supporting the mission of EARTH in Colombia.
EARTH alumni now have an exciting and exclusive chance to attend graduate school at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and obtain a Masters in Sustainability or a Masters of Arts in Food Studies in just one year instead of two.
This opportunity is only offered to EARTH alumni, who graduate with a Licentiate degree and earn between 180 and 194 credit hours.
Chatham University shares EARTH’s commitment to preparing leaders with ethical values committed to promoting sustainability in their professional lives. The program is available to EARTH alumni beginning in the fall 2013 semester. For more information visit: https://www.chatham.edu/academics/colleges/sse/programs/intlpart.
Your tax-deductible contribution through EARTH University Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity, will help provide opportunities to young leaders who want to make a difference in the world but lack the resources to pursue a higher education.
Gifts to EARTH University Foundation can be made:
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EARTH University Office of Communications
Edition 6, October 2013
Copyright © 2013 EARTH University, All rights reserved.
Colombian brothers Daniel Villegas García (‘04, Colombia) and David Villegas García (‘08, Colombia) grew up sharing everything, including their alma mater. Today, they share a common goal of transforming communities across the country through the Salva Terra Foundation (http://fundacionsalvaterra.org/SalvaTerra/), a non-governmental organization founded by the brothers in 2011.
The Salva Terra Foundation promotes sustainable community development through education and hands-on learning. The Foundation is currently managing several projects across the nation, including a partnership with the Food Bank of the Archdiocese of Medellin to develop sustainable farms throughout the region. This alliance has led them to work on a national legislative bill concerning organic food production, along with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Environmental and Sustainable Development, and the Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA).
They estimate that their work has directly impacted more than 2,500 people, and credits EARTH as a contributor to their success, stating “We learned that if you want to generate transformations in communities, it must be done through comprehensive education, and that is what we promote using integrated strategies in socioeconomic, environmental and nutritional development.”
Ms. Francine Fleming knew during her first visit to campus in 2011 that EARTH was a perfect fit for her organization.
“I had an opportunity to spend time with the students and the faculty; it was such a wonderful experience and I was impressed with the students,” recalls Ms. Fleming, founder of Journey Charitable Foundation who had been invited to EARTH by Ms. Kathleen Colson, member of EARTH University Foundation’s Board of Trustees.
Journey Charitable Foundation supports organizations working in education and job training for single mothers; educational opportunities for at-risk youth; and community development. When Francine learned that EARTH’s Community Development Program immersed students in the community, she immediately wanted to support it.
“When I learned about the program, about the students working in these communities and that this was a part of the curriculum, I felt it was a great opportunity for our foundation and I asked EARTH to submit a proposal,” she adds.
For Francine the program is not only about giving to these communities, but about helping them grow while also providing a powerful opportunity for EARTH students.
“What I like so much is that the students are there not just giving the community a lot of help, but they are also listening to what the people want,” explains Ms. Fleming.
After supporting the program for two years, the Journey Charitable Foundation is very satisfied with the results.
“We see that something is happening in these communities; there is a lot being done for them and they are having a say in the projects. The other important part for us is that students are having this experience, because I think it’s humbling for them and it’s a chance for them to realize what they can do to help,” she concludes.