As part of the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program in the Caribbean basin, the Agriculture & Food Security (AFS) team at Partners of the Americas has been leading a project to increase climate change resilience across several vulnerable communities in the Dominican Republic. In order to carry out these efforts, Partners works with a wide array of host organizations ranging from agricultural cooperatives, nonprofits, as well as local universities. Among the multiple Dominican institutions of higher learning with which we work is worth highlighting one: Universidad ISA. In 1962, this institution was founded as the Instituto Superior de Agricultura or ISA. ISA was established by a partnership between USAID, the Asociación para el Desarrollo, Inc. (APEDI) and the national government of the Dominican Republic. The university is located in a large rural campus just outside of Santiago de Caballeros, the country’s second largest metropolitan area. Universidad ISA is nationally-recognized vocation school that specializes in agriculture and natural resource management. Currently, ISA University has more than 2,000 students spread over eight programs in two distinct schools: 1) Food & Environmental Sciences, and 2) Social & Administrative Sciences. The university also boasts a series of graduate certificate and Master’s programs, ranging from agronomy and food technology to plant protection and microbiology.
In the last three years, the Farmer-to-Farmer program has sent numerous volunteers to Universidad ISA, in order to assist the school and their commitment to mitigate the complex risks brought forward by climate change. For example, in November 2014, Dr. Usha Rani Palaniswamy—a Plant Science specialist from the University of Connecticut—traveled to Santiago in order to help ISA faculty and university administrators develop and integrate a more comprehensive environmentally-focused curriculum for the school. In December 2015, F2F volunteer Rhonda L. Sherman—an extension agent and waste management specialist from North Carolina State University—traveled to ISA where she worked alongside students and faculty to assess the solid waste management system of the municipality of Jarabacoa. In October 2016, Dr. Keith Moore—a rural sociologist from Virginia Tech University—led numerous workshops to ISA students. Many of these technical trainings were focused on alternating and adapting human behaviors in order to improve forest management and preventing soil erosion in the central highlands of the country.
F2F Volunteer Keith Moore leads a forest management workshop with ISA students
The previously mentioned agricultural and environmental specialists are just some of the long list of F2F volunteers that have assisted Universidad ISA in its efforts to mitigate the impacts of impending climate change. In the coming months, the F2F program at Partners of the Americas plans to send several other volunteers to strengthen the university’s technical capacity in this strategic field. Among these are a diverse array of agro-foresters, landscapers, and waste management specialist. In the coming months and years, we hope to continue this ongoing partnership with Universidad ISA in order to advance the climate adaptation of vulnerable communities across the central highlands of the country and the Dominican Republic at-large.