In the spring of 2022, Dr. Claudia Irene Calderón (Horticulture) and Dr. Bradley Bolling (Food Science) were each awarded the Krishna Ella GARDEN Award to catalyze international projects and partnerships. Dr. Calderón and Agroecology master’s student, Meg Baker coordinated a Campesino-a-Campesino (Farmer-to-Farmer) exchange in Guatemala during the summer of 2022. The Bolling Research group used the award to support a research collaboration-building trip to Medellin and Manizales, Colombia in July 2022.
Pilot program for a ‘Campesino a Campesino’ (farmer to farmer) exchange of agroecological-based practices in Guatemala
Dr. Claudia Irene Calderón from Horticulture and Agroecology master’s student, Meg Baker coordinated a Campesino-a-Campesino (Farmer-to-Farmer) exchange in Guatemala during the summer of 2022. This event was made possible with the financial support of the Krishna Ella GARDEN Award and additional support from the 4W Engagement Grant for Emerging Scholars, CHE scholarship, and CIAS grant.
The farmer-to-farmer exchange was also made possible by the longstanding collaboration with two partner organizations: i) Mancomunidad Copanch’ortí’, a local organization in Chiquimula, that promotes rural development supporting local community development councils, and ii) Red Kuchub’al, an organization in San Marcos working on the development of agroecological value chains oriented towards food and nutrition security, industrial processing of crafts, fair trade and responsible consumption.
Six farmers from the department of San Marcos (western highlands of Guatemala) travelled to Chiquimula (on the eastern side of the country) for a two-day exchange of agroecological experiences and traditional knowledge on medicinal plants. The farmers from San Marcos met with 12 farmers from Chiquimula and with members of Mancomunidad Copánch’orti’, for a horizontal transfer of ideas, practices, agricultural challenges, and brainstorming solutions to these challenges. During the exchange, participants visited fincas integrales (integrated farms) to learn about lombricompost, agroforestry practices and preparation of artisanal animal feed, of highly nutritional beverages made with amaranth seeds, and handcrafts derived from natural elements found in the forest. Before and after, surveys were administered to gather data on expectations and feedback on the event. Exit surveys from the first farmer-to-farmer exchange showed overall satisfaction with the event and the desire to expand these types of exchanges and have more hands-on practicum experiences in the future.
Dr. Calderón is currently planning the second exchange, in which farmers from Chiquimula will travel to San Marcos to visit a series of agroecological fields to learn about preparation of organic fertilizers, production and sale of floral teas, jellies, amaranth and chocolate bars, and management of agroforestry nurseries. This exchange is planned for the last week of January 2023.
For our Spanish speaking colleagues, a more detailed account on the exchange can be found in the first digital issue of LACIS Review: https://www.lacisreview.org/current-issue/regresando-a-las-races-lecciones-aprendidas-de-un-intercambio-de-campesino-a-campesino-en-guatemala
Developing a Colombian-Wisconsin food and health research partnership
The Krishna Ella GARDEN Award supported a research collaboration-building trip to Medellin and Manizales, Colombia. Members of the Bolling research group in the Department of Food Science met with collaborators in Colombia in July, 2022. The goal of this trip was to build rapport, share research methods, and develop future collaborative projects with the One Health Consortium, the University of Manizales, and the University of Caldas.
Our group started off the week in Medellin where they met Dr. Karl Ciuoderis, a genomics lab group coordinator and researcher of the One Health Consortium. The One Health Consortium is an already established alliance between the University of Wisconsin, the National University of Colombia, and the Corporación Ruta N Medellin. This partnership was developed to strengthen and advance health-related research in Colombia. Dr. Ciuoderis graciously gave the group a tour of the One Health facility at the National University campus. The facilities and capabilities of the lab were very impressive, and the meeting helped them understand the necessary logistics for approval and transfer of agricultural and biological samples.
Next, they made their way to Manizales where they spent the rest of their time. The group toured laboratory facilities and met with research faculty and other essential university leaders at both the University of Manizales and the University of Caldas. These efforts would not have been possible without the help and coordination of Dr. Juan Carlos Carmona-Hernández, researcher and teacher at the University of Manizales who had previously worked in the Bolling lab as a visiting PhD student.
While at the University of Manizales the Bolling team met with the President and General Vice-chancellor, Duvan Ramirez and Yamilhet Andrade, and the directors of Research and International Affairs, Hector Serna and Ana Maria Hincapie, who were very enthusiastic about the future partnership. The team shared their experiences and research goals with the University of Manizales radio station, UMFM 101.2. At the University of Caldas, the team met with Dr. Gonzalo Taborda, Research Vice-chancellor, and Dr. Clara Gonzalez, Researcher at the University. They also had the opportunity to meet Dr. Sandra Montoya Barreto, director of the bioprocessing plant of the agricultural biotechnology institute affiliated with the University of Caldas. Dr. Barreto explained the facilities, waste management processes of the plant including mushroom cultivation, composting procedures, and the production of bioactive materials. They developed a stronger understanding of the agricultural capabilities of the region by touring a coffee farm where we learned about crop management, coffee varieties, and the sustainable coffee production.
Lastly, another key aspect of the Bolling group’s visit was to exchange research with students, faculty, and collaborators. The group presented their approach to the chemical analysis of polyphenols in fruits and vegetables, methods to determine how dietary bioactives affect intestinal barrier function, and how dietary polyphenols affect human health.
The award gave Dr. Bolling a unique opportunity to establish and strengthen collaborations in food and health research into Colombia. He and his lab are continuing their work to develop opportunities for research exchange for staff and students in Wisconsin and Colombia. Their immediate goals are to improve understanding of polyphenols in local fruits and vegetables and their contribution to health. With this information, they will assist in designing and implementing dietary interventions with the goal of testing hypotheses relating diet to chronic disease risk. Ultimately, their collaborative team is working to understand how diet reduces chronic inflammation.