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NMSU welcomes female African agricultural leaders

From Mozambique to the Mesilla Valley, New Mexico State University is collaborating with four women from East African countries for a special month-long service learning program.

Participants in New Mexico State University's service learning for women program Anabela da Piedade Manhiša, Chikondi Precious Chabvuta and Meaza Melkamu Abawari examine chile from a field near Las Cruces with James Ditmore of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture. (Courtesy photo)

The women are participants in African Women in Agricultural Research and Development, or AWARD, a program that works to strengthen research and leadership skills among African women in agricultural science. Of the 180 AWARD fellows, NMSU selected four women to partake in NMSU's service learning for women program, which has a similar goal of helping women in agriculture become leaders in the global community.

The visitors are from Mozambique, Malawi, Uganda and Ethiopia and have been attending workshops, giving presentations, collaborating with mentors and engaging in cross-cultural exchange.

"We wanted to give these women an opportunity to expand and take home new ideas in order to build on the phenomenal work they're already doing in their home countries," said Brenda Seevers, program coordinator and professor of Agricultural and Extension Education at NMSU. "It's also a great way for us to help people in the Las Cruces area to see the world from a different perspective."

The visitors involved in the program bring a broad spectrum of agricultural knowledge with them to NMSU. Anabela da Piedade Manhiša is the head of the technology transfer department at the Agricultural Research Institute of Mozambique; Chikondi Precious Chabvuta is a gender specialist for the Farmers Union of Malawi; Esther Betty Kakai Wamono is a nutrition officer for UNICEF in Uganda; and Meaza Melkamu Abawari is food security and economic growth program manager for Food for the Hungry Ethiopia.

So far, the women have met with female leaders at the university including NMSU President Barbara Couture and female faculty in agricultural departments. The women have also been meeting with local agricultural leaders like Jeff Witte, director of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and Anna Lyles of Lyles Family Farms.

The African women also got the opportunity to tour local agricultural sites including an onion farm, a watermelon processing plant and have also given presentations at the Las Cruces Soroptimist luncheon and to students at NMSU. The women are currently wrapping up visits to a variety of agricultural programs and operations in Northern New Mexico including visits to the NMSU Agricultural Science Center at Farmington and the NMSU Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde.

"We're excited to get to know these women individually, show them what we're involved in and learn about their perspective as well," said Linda Stout, donor to the service learning program. "They're bringing us a huge gift."

For more information about the service learning program contact Seevers at 575-646-4511 or bseevers@nmsu.edu.