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NMSU-La Salle project receives funding, partners with aWhere for irrigation project

Sativa Cruz, an environmental science major at New Mexico State University, recently received a grant to set up an irrigation system in Yopal, Colombia, early next year.

Mick O'Neill, NMSU Professor of Agronomy, instructs NMSU and La Salle students in the use of the aWhere Weather Module. (Photo by Santiago Saenz/University of La Salle)

NMSU environmental science student Sativa Cruz recently received a grant from the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute to initiate the setup of an irrigation system developed by NMSU faculty in Yopal, Colombia. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Cruz is one of several NMSU students and faculty members participating in an exchange program with the University of La Salle?s Utopia Project in Bogota, Colombia. The program began last year after students and faculty at La Salle asked NMSU to join them in developing a project proposal to submit to Partners of the Americas, a private sector organization which carries out multi-year projects in the Western Hemisphere. The proposal was developed as a faculty and student exchange program that incorporates an irrigation system design component for the Utopia satellite project in Yopal. The NMSU-La Salle consortium was awarded the project in June 2014.

Partners of the Americas has also sponsored the 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative in association with the White House.

Cruz recently received a grant from the New Mexico Water Resources Research Insititute to intiate setup of the irrigation system designed by NMSU faculty participants. She will use the aWhere Weather Module to access site-specific historical weather data in order to develop resilient water management strategies for cacao grown in the agroforestry project. Officials with aWhere, Inc., recently provided students, researchers and faculty associated with the Utopia Project with free access to the company?s online Weather Analysis Module and Colombian weather dataset. Officials said the partnership was fostered through a close relationship with Mick O?Neill, professor with NMSU?s Agricultural Science Center.

?This is fantastic news for strengthening the partnership that we have started to cement through the Partners of the Americas and the 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiatives,? O?Neill said.

The focus of the Utopia Project is creating and integrating agricultural, educational and productive opportunities for resource-limited young people from rural areas of Colombia who have been traumatized by drug-related violence. The project?s goal is to reinvent Colombia?s agricultural sector to achieve a sustainable agricultural transformation through participatory research and appropriate technology utilization.

Access to the aWhere platform allows students and faculty to expand their use of Colombia?s weather data and integrate it into education and classroom instruction.

?The platform has been extremely useful to acquire retrospective data for decision-making and climatic pattern analysis,? said Jorge Triana Valenzuela, professor at University of La Salle. ?Climatic data in Colombia are very limited, even through a few in-country organizations and institutions have access to good information, most of the time it is not available via Internet web searches.?

Cruz will be using the aWhere Weather Module to access site-specific historical weather data to quantify water requirements for growing cacao, or cocoa trees.

?Bringing this project to realization enables development of water management techniques via drip irrigation design, facilitates international collaboration and entices young agricultural leaders through proactive knowledge transfer,? Cruz said.

John Corbett, CEO of aWhere, Inc., said the company fosters sustainable economic growth and human development by connecting people with actionable information from farmers to corporate and national policy makers.

?With increased variability in the weather having a growing impact across the agricultural value chain, access to accurate, local observed and forecast weather is becoming more and more important for food security and farmer-sustainable economic health,? Corbett said.