Going Organic for Global Health

After learning about economic disparities IDS 3189, International Nutrition, Public Health, and Economic Development, student Randy Juste applied for and received a USDA agroecology internship and has been able to work with FIU’s organic garden and related research projects.  Read Randy’s first-person account of his internship and how FIU Global Learning equipped him with the global awareness and perspective he needed to become an engaged global citizen.

By Randy Juste

In the Fall of 2011, I took Dr. Adriana Campa’s and Dr. Mahadev Bhat`s Global Learning Foundations course, “International Nutrition, Public Health and Economic Development,” and had my world view expanded. In that class we were exposed to the conditions of the world: the nexus between nutrition, health and economic development in third world countries; the state of women and poor; the origin and impacts of non-communicable diseases; and, the need for sustainable agriculture and agricultural development in impoverished countries. It was eye opening to learn that there are countries where people are dying from diseases and causes that are virtually non-existent in the US. Malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS, to name a few, devastate on a scale that is unimaginable, while the lack of basic education and nutrition continues to perpetuate the vicious cycle of people dying of preventable diseases.

One of the things the course emphasized was food security as a solution to many of the Randy Juste Article 1problems that arise in continents like Africa, where children die daily by the thousands. The inconsistent food supply of many African countries leads to the malnutrition and starvation of millions of families and their children. This course focus prepared me to respond to a course presentation that was given by the FIU Agroecology Program. They offered an opportunity to become a part of the Florida Caribbean Consortium for Agricultural Education (FCCAgE) program funded by the USDA for Hispanic Serving Institutions. As a scholar with FCCAgE, I am provided with an agriculturally-based education along with opportunities to train at the FIU Organic Garden and Soil-Plant-Microbiology Laboratory under Dr. Krish Jayachandran, a professor in the Earth and Environment department, and Ms. Pushpa Soti, a doctoral student in Geosciences.  FCCAgE scholars are paired with FIU faculty and graduate student mentors in their field of study and together they do projects and perform research.

As an FCCAgE scholar, I have the privilege to participate in activities that I would not have been able to otherwise. I got to do an internship under a mentor at the USDA/ARS Subtropical Horticulture Research Station in Coral Gables this past summer; meet and work with various FIU faculty within the Earth and Environment department; perform and get funded for various research projects; attend lecture seminars with experts in their respective fields; and, have access to a plethora of internship and work opportunities through the USDA network. Not only have I been given assistance in affording this education, but I am also surrounded by a wealth of resources, support, and opportunities for academic success. Today I see a clear direction for my pursuit of science education—in the area of agroecology—all due to my very first Global Learning course.

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