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USAID partners at the Cascadas de Agua Azul in southern Mexico are, from l-r, Alejandro Montes from the Universidad de Queretero; Carol Fimmen, director of the College of Business and Technology's Center for Global Education at WIU; Lupe Bernal of the Universidad de Queretero; Win Phippen, WIU agriculture professor; Andrea Dinolfo, Trilateral MBA student; Chris Merrett, director of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs; and John Gruidl, director of the IIRA's Midwest Community Development Institute.
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Agriculture Professor Begins Cooperative Venture With Mexican Universities

January 18, 2007


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MACOMB, IL -- A Western Illinois University agriculture professor has initiated a partnership between Western and two Mexican universities to offer training programs to Mexican small-scale agriculture producers.

Win Phippen recently received a $298,600 grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development for the project "Capacity Building in Southern Mexico." The three-year project is designed to increase prosperity for rural small-scale producers in Mexico, according to Phippen.

"By working with the Universidad Autonoma de Queretero and the Universidad Tecnological de la Selva, we will offer training programs that will provide learning opportunities for small-scale producers, as well as strengthen support organizations, foster professional development and prepare agriculture students for careers in global economy," Phippen added.

Phippen explained that the promotion of rural prosperity for small-scale producers is a major challenge facing many regions in Mexico. These small-scale producers are not only diverse in size, but also in their agricultural products, their fiscal management practices and the methods they use to bring products to market.

"Southern Mexico produces a tremendous variety of products for both the local and global markets, and with the current economic conditions in Mexico changing, potential new market opportunities exist for small-scale producers," he said. "Despite these new possibilities, producers still face many hurdles, such as limited access to technology and little information about international trade."

Phippen and project co-director Chris Merrett, director of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA) at Western, will work with the cooperating Mexican universities using a model system designed for rural communities established by the IIRA. The program will bring together a consortium of experts who will in turn directly assist the small-scale producers. In addition, the project will incorporate a master's degree program and other educational opportunities.

Phippen -- along with Merrett and John Gruidl, director of the IIRA's Midwest Community Development Institute, and Carol Fimmen, director of the WIU College of Business and Technology's Center for Global Education -- made their initial visit to the Universidad de la Selva in October 2006 to get to know key personnel and learn more about the region. The group also met with local agriculture industry leaders and small-scale producers and toured a honey processing facility and a small-scale cheese-making factory.

"While this initial project focuses on just two regions in Mexico, our intention is to develop a system that can be transferred to other key institutions in the rural regions of Southern Mexico," Phippen added.

Posted By: Darcie Shinberger (DR-Shinberger@wiu.edu)
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