University News

Area Agriculture Creates Vision for Mexican Professor

January 7, 2008

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MACOMB, IL - - Elfego Hernandez was shocked when taking in the magnitude of the area's farmlands. "In Mexico, you have small producers with four or five acres, not hundreds," he said.

Hernandez, a professor in the College of Natural Sciences at the Universidad Universidad Autonoma de Queretero, recently returned to his home country of Mexico after a four month stay in Macomb. His visit was part of a partnership between universities in Mexico and the United States designed to increase research for rural and economic development for small producers in Mexico.

Western recently received a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development for the three-year project, "Capacity Building in Southern Mexico." According to Win Phippen, associate professor of agriculture and project director, the goal for this project is to create long-standing relationships among universities in the two countries, as well as help the small producers in Mexico. Mexican producers of coffee, honey, dairy and cheese have limited knowledge, training and access to technology. Hernandez hopes to take back what he has learned at Western and build up Mexican companies and create cooperatives.

When asked about Macomb's agricultural community, Hernandez said the biggest difference from Mexico is technology. "Some parts of the country still use farming tools by hand, and it is more difficult for such small producers to gain access to markets. These special projects are helping the development and sustainability," said Hernandez.

He said this trip has allowed him to create a vision for his project in Mexico. "We, as a world, are all a university. Our work allows us to integrate students and faculty and to work toward development. We are part of an environment that allows us to create new ideas and new models," said Hernandez.

Hernandez is the first faculty member to come to Western as part of the partnership. According to Hernandez, the greatest benefit will be to his students at the Universidad Autonoma de Queretero. He will be able to share the information he learned while in Macomb and improve his curriculum and college. While visiting Western, Hernandez participated in many short-term courses and seminars, as well as the summer entrepreneurship and innovation course. He spent hours at the library and attended as many WIU programs and performances as he could fit in.

Hernandez said he will miss the daily interaction with American students, as well as his interaction with WIU's international students. He loved seeing students of different cultures come together and build relationships. He said he thinks of Macomb as a very healthy community because of all the different cultures and religions that are present.

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