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Twenty-one Western Kentucky University students spent the winter term studying in Ecuador. Michaela Ash, an Upton senior, was among those participating.
This is the 22nd year the Department of Agriculture has sponsored the short-term study abroad course. This year’s leaders were Drs. Kristie Guffey and David Coffey.
While the major emphasis of the course was on food production systems and issues, the group also toured historical and cultural sites including experiencing the gold-leafed sanctuaries inside the churches of Old Quito and a tram ride to 13,000 feet. They also conducted scientific experiments at the Middle of the World.
Food and development issues in the Lowlands and Coastal areas of Ecuador included visits to and consultation from experts in banana, plantain, bamboo, chocolate and shrimp production and pineapple exportation. They also visited an agricultural technical school. Marketing systems, globalization, biodiversity and sustainability were unifying themes.
Two other highlights included exploring La Perla, a tropical rainforest near Santo Domingo, and investigating the culture of the Sachilla Indian tribe. They also studied issues related to man’s encroachment on the fragile mangrove vs. providing cheap shrimp in the grocery store.
For a service-learning project, the group worked with Dr. Rankin Skinner, representing Kentucky-Ecuador Partners of the Americas, to apply free dental varnish to the teeth of about 1,000 children.