This week marks the start of a new semester for students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Campus will come alive with students returning to class, buzzing with stories of their summer activities, and with the new semester comes an exciting new opportunity for UNL students and DWFI staff.
This year we are starting a new upperclassmen learning community, Global SEEDS (Service, Engagement, Entrepreneurship, Development, Sustainability). The learning community will bring together students of various backgrounds and college majors with a common interest in water for food production. From their various perspectives, we will explore the use of water in agriculture, specifically discussing the impacts, opportunities and challenges of agricultural water use. We’ll focus on Nebraska agriculture during the fall semester, then move to an international focus in the spring.
Next summer DWFI plans to take students from the Global SEEDS community on an experiential learning trip to Rwanda. In preparation for that trip, a team of DWFI staff traveled to Rwanda this summer to better understand the country’s agricultural ecosystem. We talked with government officials about their goals for Rwandan agriculture, and we visited farm fields with various irrigation schemes. We also spoke with Rwandan businesses and nonprofit organizations that provide farmers with agronomic training and accessible markets for their crops.
While in Rwanda, we also had the privilege of supporting the UNL CUSP scholars who were there to present on the work they’re doing in Nebraska. They shared the agricultural studies they’re learning, and how they envision their experience will equip them for a career in agriculture in Rwanda when they finish school.
The trip was very enlightening, and we learned a lot. Some of the differences we found between Nebraska agriculture and Rwandan agriculture were expected, such as the smaller size of farming operations in Rwanda. Other differences were unexpected. In Nebraska, extension services that offer agronomic training and advice for farmers often come from the public sector, such as the university and its employees. In Rwanda, these services come from private sector companies. Seeing corn grown on steep hills next to banana trees was something our eyes certainly aren’t used to seeing in Nebraska!
This trip marked the first time visiting Rwanda for everyone in the DWFI group. We had a wonderful time and learned a great deal about Rwanda’s burgeoning agricultural and entrepreneurial sectors. We can’t wait to see what connections our Global SEEDS students make when we take them to Rwanda next summer to experience its unique agricultural ecosystem.