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Column   | Winter 2011

Learning to lead in the global arena

friendship circle in Tanzania
Two Purdue landscape architecture students created this friendship circle as part of an environmental project in Kigoma, Tanzania.

It’s not uncommon to find Purdue Agriculture students in leadership positions across campus, throughout the state and even nationally. Lately, though, it’s becoming apparent that they’re also taking their leadership skills abroad.

Students join forces for conservation in Tanzania
Thousands of miles separate Tanzania from West Lafayette, but the country’s environmental issues are close to the heart of some Purdue University students.

Between 1990 and 2005, Tanzania lost more than 15 million acres of forest cover, mainly due to wood harvests for fuel.

Landscape architecture students Peter Caldwell and Landon Young are helping restore vegetation through World Help Solutions, a non-profit organization they founded to provide environmental solutions to problems in developing countries. The duo teamed up with another student-led non-profit, Trees for Tanzania. Founder Mary Schott—a Purdue Agriculture graduate student who is developing a tree species to reforest the area—asked them to design a park that would demonstrate alternative tree uses and provide stormwater management.

The students traveled to Tanzania in October, arriving only to find that the government had annexed their park space. They had just one day to select and design a new site.

They chose a severely eroded drainage ditch and built a series of rain gardens enclosed by dam walls. The site is adjacent to a church, so the students also incorporated a fellowship circle for outdoor sermons and gatherings. “The new site was about three times the work of the original, but we managed to finish it minutes before the dedication,” Caldwell said.

International team solves agricultural problems in Romania
Through a Maymester study abroad service-learning course, Purdue University students not only learned about agricultural problems in rural Romania, they used their knowledge and hands to help solve them.

Purdue Ag students in a service-learning class in Romania
Purdue Agriculture students help solve agricultural problems in a service-learning class in rural Romania.

Eighteen Purdue Agriculture and six Romanian students from Banat University stayed in Vata de Jos to work with host families who had been helped by Heifer International, a non-profit organization that gives livestock to families for milk and meat.

Then, in the town of Paclisa, the students split into teams for projects at a retirement home that runs a small livestock and crop farm for food. The home faced severe problems with manure management, overgrazing and livestock housing. The teams first had to assess the problems and then come up with solutions that were viable with limited resources.

Megan Stanley, a senior animal sciences major, says that the leadership skills she learned at Purdue prepared her to solve problems and work as part of a team. Her group built a road by hand that made manure removal less dependent on the weather. Previously, the facility could remove manure only when the ground was frozen.

Course organizers and animal sciences faculty Mark Russell and Paul Ebner say that students are not only finding sustainable solutions to local food animal production problems, they’re gaining valuable skills in problem-solving, teamwork and cross-cultural communication.

 

 

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