​Students’ stay in Colombia leads to understanding of food loss and water quality

Written by Kendell Combs, Junior, Agribusiness Management & Agricultural Communication

Two students from the Colombia Food Security and Sustainability Development study abroad trip can both agree that they value the opportunity they had to interact between Colombian and American faculty and friends while abroad. Gloria Koester (Sophomore; Agribusiness Management; Wadesville, IN) and Markus Banas (Senior; Agribusiness Management; Fort Wayne, IN) spent a Maymester in Colombia, which included three weeks of studying social and demographic changes, the physical environment, global climate change, economic systems and global trade. The trip was led by Dr. Ken Foster.

Gloria’s project while abroad was to work with one Purdue student and two Colombian students on a current problem in global agriculture and find a feasible solution to this issue. Her group presented to Purdue Faculty and Colombian professors about how to reduce food loss in transportation in both the U.S and Colombia.

An interesting thing Gloria learned during her research was that a major issue in Latin American agriculture is the lack of education in producers. “For example, many coffee and fruit farmers spray far more pesticides and herbicides than needed, which actually lowers the total yield and does more harm than they intend.” Because of this study abroad experience, Gloria discovered a passion for international food security and hopes to pursue a career in helping educate international farmers so that they can improve their yields and continue to feed an ever-growing population.

Markus deemed Colombia as one of the most exciting and educating trips he’s ever taken. He worked to produce a report with new friends on water quality in the Sumapaz. He believes that this trip’s purpose of educating students on the importance of agriculture in foreign countries truly expose students to new and thrilling ideas through collaboration with Purdue students and Colombian students.

Something that caught Markus’ attention was that the Colombians were so kind and cordial, making the entire experience one he’ll never forget. In each city they visited, the people made every hike, tour, or night out that much more enjoyable. “Never assume anything about anyone before you meet and get to know them!” While traveling, his favorite place he visited was the Hacienda Guyabal in Chinchiná, a coffee farm near Manizales. His group was given a coffee tour and class, tasted the farm’s own products, and had a lunch overlooking a scenic vista.

This experience in another country with a new culture allowed Gloria and Markus to open their minds to possibilities in the agriculture industry outside of the United States.

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