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Spring 2012
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Student Journals

Text: Hannah Stamler ’12

The Student Multidisciplinary Applied Research Teams (SMART) program, run by the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD), sends a select group of students abroad over winter and summer breaks. SMART aims to give graduate students and advanced undergraduates the chance to apply classroom knowledge in challenging, real-world settings. The program, consistent with CIIFAD’s mission, also seeks to train students for roles in global development.

During the SMART trips, multi-disciplinary student teams go to developing nations and pair with firms, organizations, and community groups to create effective solutions to various dilemmas. In the semester after the trips, participants take the course “Research and Strategy in Emerging Markets.” They compile their findings into aformal case study that they share with other SMART students and their respective clients.

The winter 2012 projects ranged from helping indigo dyers in rural Thailand find new markets for their products, to helping a small cheese maker in Kenya diversify and improve its product list. The students were asked to keep journals about their experiences, and here are a few excerpts of their reflections.

AguaClara: Sustainable Water Treatment Systems for Honduras

Cornell Engineering students update a treatment plant in Alauca.

AguaClara is a development program based on a green technology that looks to solve basic health issues with significant improvement in water quality. It is a water purification technology for midsized municipalities in emerging markets, and the success of the technology is dependent on community engagement and ongoing support of purification improvement. The SMART members—Ben Koffel, Kristofer Goddard, Maren Hill, and Stef Levner—traveled with the AguaClara team from Cornell, which consisted of more than 20 undergraduate engineers. Read More

Technical assistance to Brown’s Cheese, Kenya

Workers at Brown’s Cheese fill Baby Gouda molds.

Delia Stirling ’02 and her husband Andy Stirling ’01, MEN ’02, own Brown’s Cheese, a cheese shop and dairy farm outside Nairobi, Kenya. Since its inception, the shop has been a unique endeavor; it is one of the only producers of high-quality, local cheese in western Africa. Since inheriting the shop from her parents Dave and Sue Brown, though, Delia is hoping to further expand by introducing new products and reaching out to more expatriate and southern African clients. For all of these projects, the Browns looked to Cornell students. Trip participants Matt Ranieri, Daina Ringus and Pajau “PJ” Vangay offered suggestions on how to improve production from a food science perspective, while Cornell Institute for Public Affairs fellow Stephanie Bryant examined their business model. Read More

Makutano Junction and Shamba Shape Up: Teaching the Millennium Development Goals in East Africa through Entertaining and Educational Television Programming

In January 2012, George Homsy, Ben Hubner, Hajra Hur, Jean Nsabumuremyi, and Carrie Young (team leader) traveled to Karen, Kenya, as part of CIIFAD’s SMART program. Their research included extensive interviews with smallholder farmers in five villages (Kikuyu, Ndeiya, Kijabe, Machakos, and Nakuru) to get feedback about environmental messages in mass media, as well as a sense of farmers’ knowledge of issues relating to climate change and environmental conservation. The team worked closely with The Mediae Company, which produces the shows Makutano Junction and Shamba Shape Up. The following are excerpts from reflections written about the team’s time in the villages. Names of those interviewed have been removed to maintain confidentiality. Read More

Strategic Management and Fundraising Consulting for the Cancer Resource and Education (CaRE) program, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

SMART Team with Aida, a cancer survivor, and Prof. Mazanah Muhamad and Prof. Rosemary Caffarella - the two CaRE co-founders

The Cancer Resource and Education (CaRE) program in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, provides much-needed support to breast cancer sufferers, survivors, and their communities. CaRE is a cooperative project of the Universiti Putra Malaysia and Cornell, among others. This year, Cornell students Alicia Freedman, Ashley Hollister, Tamara Struk, and Xiomara Chavez-Suarez travelled to Malaysia with Professor Rosemary Caffarella to aid the organization in revamping and strengthening its donor system. Students were tasked with finding ways to increase donor support, initiate new contacts, and come up with fundraising events to raise contributions. Read More

Markets for Locally Produced Indigo Textile in Ban Kudhad, Northeast Thailand

Interviewing the community business

The Ban Kudhad community of Northeast Thailand is known for producing beautiful indigo textiles. Unfortunately, though, their market does not extend too far beyond community and regional borders. This winter, Cornell applied economics and apparel design students—Daniel Halper, Rebecca Sisselman, Cheng Qiu, and Vivian Luu—paired with students from the Sakonnakhorn campus of Thai Kasetsart University to find new markets for indigo products, while making sure not to overtax the women who make and dye the fabrics. They worked with indigo dyers to advise them on new business strategies and also searched for luxury or niche buyers in the United States and developed world. Apparel design student Melissa Moukperian arrived several days later to pursue an individual project. Read More