Cultural Exchange

Photos by Todd Hurt, Laura Perry Johnson and Angela Rowell

ExTEND Leaders Travel to Ecuador to Share Knowledge and Learn

In April, participants and leaders of the ExTEND Advanced Leadership Training Program, all of whom are part of University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, traveled to Ecuador to learn about Ecuadorian agriculture to better serve stakeholders here in Georgia and to share some of UGA Extension’s best practices with their Ecuadorian counterparts.

The 16-member cohort of College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences staff and UGA Extension agents and specialists met representatives of the Ecuadorian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Aquaculture and Fisheries; Fundación Maquipucuna, a not-for-profit organization working toward biodiversity conservation in Ecuador; and Reserva Yunguilla, a 300-person collective working to preserve the environment through community-based tourism, whose residents sought information on food safety, organic gardening and cattle production.

Extend Leaders in Ecuador
ExTEND leaders travel to Ecuador as part of an advanced leadership training program. Photos by Todd Hurt, Laura Perry Johnson and Angela Rowell

Over the course of the trip, the group visited various agricultural operations – including a research and experiment station, a vegetable production facility, a coffee farm, a sugarcane plantation, a chocolate factory and a floriculture operation run by a CAES alumnus – to observe agricultural practices, build relationships and immerse themselves in Ecuadorian culture.

To start the trip, the UGA Extension group visited the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador, where Agricultural Specialist Henry Vega, who works at the American Embassy, welcomed and briefed the group on agriculture in Ecuador and trade with the U.S.

“The briefing helped us understand the economic situation in Ecuador and the role of agriculture,” said Andrea Scarrow, Southwest District Family and Consumer Sciences program development coordinator. “This equipped us to interact with professors and students at the university and gave us the big picture of some of the challenges and natural resources that Ecuador has.”

At Central University of Ecuador, Associate Dean for Extension Laura Perry Johnson provided an overview of UGA Extension before Extension agents and specialists spoke about successful UGA programs in cattle production, Vidalia onion research, Extension youth development and Family and Consumer Sciences programming, and online learning.

“It was so rewarding for the agents and the specialists who went to present workshops on very practical topics that make a difference in everyday lives,” Scarrow said. “We all felt like we received a lot culturally and we were able to put our expertise to work.”

Because the Ecuadorian agriculture ministry is looking to partner with UGA Extension to learn methods of reaching local communities with research-based education, members of ExTEND sought to share as much knowledge as possible.

“It was amazing to see agents share their knowledge and expertise with the people of Ecuador,” Johnson said.

The trip was led by Johnson, Scarrow and UGA Extension Director of Leadership Programs Tony Tyson, and helped pave the way for collaborations while providing ExTEND participants with opportunities to expand their cultural knowledge and understanding. Extension personnel are presently developing bilingual tools – like posters in English and Spanish – to train food service workers at Maquipucuna and Yunguilla in food safety, as well as tools to help those at Yunguilla with composting, according to Scarrow. College Program and Staff Development Specialist Todd Hurt is working with the agriculture ministry to translate UGA Extension’s “Plant Diseases and Disorders” online classroom to Spanish and to adapt it to Ecuador’s needs. Tammy Cheely, Extension county coordinator for Glascock, Hancock and Warren counties, is working with Ecuadorian beef and dairy cattle producers to grow and improve the genetics of their herds. Eventually, Cheely hopes to organize a trip for Ecuadorian producers to come to the U.S. to shadow Georgia producers. She’s also developing rations to boost cows’ nutrition and productivity, and testing forage varieties to grow in Ecuador. Georgia 4-H faculty members Sonya Jones, Susan Yearwood and Melanie Biersmith presented healthy living, leadership and environmental education information and led several activities for students at the Yunguilla school. Students enjoyed migratory bird hopscotch, which provided an opportunity to talk about protecting the migration pathways of birds who travel between the U.S. and Ecuador, and a version of Pictionary to practice English vocabulary words. These 4-H faculty members are gathering school supplies and creating English flash cards for the students’ English lessons.“The idea is that we’re going to be providing them with tools that they can use to continue to develop their projects and livelihoods,” Scarrow said.

The ExTEND program, which is an offshoot of UGA Extension’s professional development program, the Extension Academy for Professional Excellence, provides opportunities for Extension Academy graduates interested in broadening their professional leadership development and making an impact within Extension. The 18-month ExTEND program includes professional development sessions and self-directed assignments based on individuals’ interests and goals. It fosters leaders who are ready to serve the organization in roles of greater responsibility as Extension agents, program managers and staff directors.