Second Nicaragua trip reaps data-access rewardsUW-River Falls Library Director Valerie Malzacher and technology expert Dan Semi said their second trip to Nicaragua revealed that their counterparts there have made good progress toward improving access to farming resources and data.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
UW-River Falls Library Director Valerie Malzacher and technology expert Dan Semi said their second trip to Nicaragua revealed that their counterparts there have made good progress toward improving access to farming resources and data.
“One of the things we wanted to work with them on was improving access to information for the dairy industry,” said Malzacher. “I feel like we were able to accomplish that.”
They traveled to Nicaragua last year in April and again this year July 16-30, both trips under the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Farmer-to-Farmer program. The two do work that is different from the agriculture professors and others who go to provide in-the-field assistance.
Malzacher and Semi explained that they wanted to help the agricultural university get and keep resources, as well as update and market them.
The 2011 trip built upon what they saw, heard and learned during last year’s trip.
They observed progress and identified more ways to improve things as they again visited with people at UNA -- the Universidad de Agraria, the Livestock Commission of Nicaragua -- CONAGAN, and others.
Malzacher worked with librarians on a guide system called “Libguides” that she and Semi developed. She also conducted workshops and gave a few presentations.
She said cloud-based computing helps things go more smoothly. “I can see what they’ve done, and they can see what I’ve done,” Malzacher said.
Semi said most folks there have a keen interest in learning about the Web and video production, like CONAGAN wanting a web-based marketing video.
Semi says he and his UW-RF colleague spent more time this trip at the FACA, an animal-science faculty comparable to UW-RF’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES).
While in Nicaragua, the two met a veterinarian from Spooner, Dr. Alan Pederson, who was there to perform a Cesarean section on a cow.
Semi said, “We ended up videotaping the procedure…it was really interesting.”
He said the educational video now becomes a resource that can be used for many instructional purposes. The locals also helped their colleagues create a YouTube account so they could store video on the Web and avoid having to buy new or additional computer servers.
Semi said, “We built a web log (blog) for them with WordPress.”
The American colleagues agree that perhaps the best advancement was an interface that requires only the flip of a switch to translate everything from English to Spanish or vice versa. They agree that interface makes it much easier for them to work with their friends in Nicaragua.
Semi confirms, “Our goal continues to be making information available for their dairy production chain.”
Malzacher and Semi reinforced existing relationships and made new ones.
They happened to be in Nicaragua as the country’s national livestock commission held its second annual congress -- like a conference in the United States -- with about 100 producers attending. The conference invited Malzacher and Semi to give a presentation about their work, which they say was fun and a great way to spread the word about improving the industry’s access to information.
Semi said the new resources being developed and rolled out sparked a lot of interest. They had animal producers asking about how to create a website, a video… He and Malzacher pointed them to local people who now have the knowledge, training and tools to help.
“Part of this is just developing relationships,” she said.
The U.S. partners say they’ve already been invited back for next year.
Malzacher said the project partners would like to convert their library catalogue to an electronic system and upgrade other library resources. One lady wants to create an archive for the university’s important records and will talk to UW-RF’s archivist.
“They’re very much looking to improve,” said Malzacher about the people, who she says are extremely nice and pleasant.
Semi agreed and said, “They have a lot of initiative,” adding that he has learned a lot from their Nicaraguan friends.
They said it is fulfilling to see improvements happening. For example, students used to have to pay for wireless access, but now it is free. Semi said an existing informational website had improved dramatically since last year.
The two say they’ll continue looking into resources that could help such as grants, online courses and possibly Nicaraguan farmers visiting the United States.
Malzacher and Semi say the two weeks flew by. They did some sightseeing on the last day, going to San Juan del Sur, swimming in the south Pacific and coming within about 10 miles of the border with Costa Rica.
Semi reflects that the world seems huge and has many national and international borders, but it “really just boils down to people.”