Six Texas A&M University (TAMU) graduate students participated in a one-day High Impact Experience on October 6, 2017 by visiting the World Hunger Relief, Inc. (WHRI) training center for development near Waco, Texas. The center is a functioning farm that trains on the use of appropriate technologies tailored for expected conditions of community-level work in developing nations.
The students, who are enrolled in ALEC 644, The Agricultural Advisor in Developing Nations, included Mitchel Baker, Lindsey Coleman, Bladimir Garcia, Bruce Leggett, Hannah Martin, and Danette Philpot. Dr. Manuel Piña, Jr., course professor, accompanied the students.
At WHRI, the students and professor were met by Dr. Patrick Lillard, farm operations director, and Mr. James Fairchild, farm manager; both are graduates of the TAMU Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications and are members of the six-person WHRI staff.
WHRI is a Christian organization committed to the alleviation of hunger around the world. It was chartered in 1976 as a non-profit organization to provide a program in agroforestry and related technologies to address the needs of the hungry, both foreign and domestic. The farm in Waco was born in 1979 and included simple food production systems to address the food needs of the poor, including intensive vegetable production in grow-beds, rabbit husbandry, and agroforestry and developed a complementary program to train individuals to address hunger needs around the world. In the mid-1980s, they became active in development programs in Haiti, Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and India including well-digging and sanitary drinking water. In 1994, they expanded to include a Grade-A goat dairy, dried flower production, and fresh market vegetables and organized into a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model. Examples of their work are The Ferrier, a program in Haiti which is now thirty years old and has led to the formation of a sister organization, World Hunger Relief, Haiti, and international partnerships including the Valle Nuevo community in north-central El Salvador and the Ricks Institute in Liberia.
At the farm, the graduate students met other members of the staff and six interns with interests in international development work. The interns receive training through internships that may last up to nine months. In Waco, they focus on addressing hunger issues of low-income, elderly, and disabled individuals through various community gardening projects and also provide training in gardening for schools and other community organizations. The students toured the farm, including their gardening and field operations, harvesting vegetables for consumption at the farm and a local farmers’ market, and a broiler production that is integrated with their sustainable production philosophy and practice. The students also saw their dormitory, a house representative of a house in Nicaragua, and various other facilities similar to what one would find in a developing nation.
It was evident that this farm is an excellent training ground for anyone who aspires to do development work through agriculture in a developing nation. The farm also offers many opportunities worthy of consideration for mutually beneficial efforts between WHRI and Texas A&M University. For more information about WHRI in Waco, please go to http://www.worldhungerrelief.org/waco/