News Research

January 29, 2018 at 11:11 am

OHIO’s Small Seed Project Blossoms into International Partnership

Dr. Fernando Rodríguez (left) with OHIO Drs. Theresa Moran, Paul Patton, Art These, David Bell.

Dr. Fernando Rodríguez (left) with OHIO Drs. Theresa Moran, Paul Patton, Art These, David Bell in front of the PUCE Center for Research on Health in Latin America

By Dawn Bikowski
Director of the English Language Improvement Program

Ohio University faculty traveled to Ecuador in December as part of a research and community capacity-building project involving local agro-biodiversity and food sovereignty in two regions—Southeastern Ohio and the Andes outside of Quito.

The project, “Facilitating & Sharing International Community-Based Research through Seed Saving Initiatives,” involved Dr. Theresa Moran, Food Studies theme Director); Dr. Art Trese, Associate Professor of Environmental & Plant Biology; Dr. Paul Patton, Assistant Professor of Sociology & Anthropology, and Dr. David Bell, Associate Professor of Linguistics. They traveled to Ecuador to work with Dr. Rommel Montúfar, Biological Sciences Pontíficia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (PUCE), and Michael Ayala, Agricultural Sciences at the Universidad Central del Ecuador.

This project builds on the relationships each university has with the others and with regional community partners.

Food studies graphic, with outlines of eggplant, tomato, corn, etc.

“This project started with community needs in both areas, and focuses on how we as researchers can work with community members on issues important to them and that can positively impact their lives,” said Moran, emphasizing the community-driven aspect of the project.

In Ecuador, the team is working with small farmers in Ecuador’s Pichincha province who want to strengthen the informal seed sector and re-build regional biodiversity.

Ms. M. Teresa C. Cacuango, community member in Pichinga Province, Ecuador

Ms. M. Teresa C. Cacuango, community member in Pichinga Province, Ecuador

“We are able to eat healthy food and stay healthy. I cook what we grow here. For this reason, we don’t have to ask anyone for extra help or food. We are able to work and take care of ourselves,” said one Ecuadorian small farmer, Tereza Cacuango, explaining what food security means to her, emphasizing the importance of having her own food source.

Dr. Art Trese, OHIO plant pathologist and sustainable agriculture expert

Dr. Art Trese, OHIO plant pathologist and sustainable agriculture expert

Trese appreciated being on the trip and seeing the community in person.

“I was really excited to meet the community members and researchers in Ecuador and to bring that information back to our context here in Southeastern Ohio,” he said. “So many of the types of struggles and successes they are experiencing there are similar to what the rural community here is dealing with as well. The information exchange is already really interesting.”

“When we work together, we do great things, especially in agroecology,” said Maria Cacuango, another community member in Pichinga Province, emphasizing the importance of food sovereignty and the project.

This project is an interdisciplinary study built on an ongoing successful collaboration of OHIO English Language Improvement Program, OHIO Food Studies theme, OHIO Environmental & Plant BiologyOHIO Sociology & Anthropology, the OHIO Center for International Studies, PUCE, and the Universidad Central del Ecuador. It is funded by an OHIO Innovation Strategy planning grant, with Dr. Dawn Bikowski (ELIP, Linguistics) as PI and Moran as co-PI, and with the collaboration of the Vice Provost for Global Affairs Dr. LJ Edmonds and Director of the Tropical Disease Institute Dr. Mario Grijalva. Bell’s participation coincided with an Institute of Tropical and Infectious Disease scientific writing conference where he was a speaker.

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