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OSU faculty members complete volunteer assignments in Nicaragua

Tim Bowser and Barbara Brown, OSU faculty members, completed volunteer assignments through Partners of the Americas and the United States Agency for International Development-supported Farmer-to-Farmer program.

By Melanie Jackson

(Stillwater, Okla. - June 10, 2016) Two Oklahoma State University faculty members completed volunteer assignments through Partners of the Americas and the United States Agency for International Development-supported Farmer-to-Farmer program.

Tim Bowser, food process engineer for OSU’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center, and Barbara Brown, OSU Cooperative Extension food specialist, traveled to Nicaragua to assist local residents with stabilizing the food supply.

“Rural Nicaraguans can benefit from making foods shelf stable so they can store them for times of famine or seasons when food is less available,” Bowser said.

During his time in Nicaragua, Bowser worked with the Fabretto Children’s Foundation, which operates schools for disadvantaged and orphaned children in Central America. Bowser visited three schools to teach dehydration methods and demonstrate the dehydration of fruits, vegetables and meat. In addition, he helped construct a solar dehydrator at each school.

“Everyone I met was extremely friendly and very interested in the dehydration of food,” Bowser said. “They had very little knowledge of the mechanisms and methods of dehydration. None of the people I met had ever seen or tasted beef jerky. They loved the samples of beef jerky I brought with me and immediately wanted to start making their own.”

Brown’s volunteer assignment focused on creating and marketing value-added products. She spent the first day working with a women’s cooperative in Nueva Guinea. Brown helped the women make pineapple jam and attempted to create a value-added product using borojo, a native fruit.

“We showed them in that one day that it is possible to do something different,” Brown said. “I think it gave them some ideas of things they can do and things that have to be improved. There are opportunities out there for them.”

The remainder of Brown’s trip was spent in Wawashang, Nicaragua, where the Foundation for the Autonomy and Development of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua operates a school for at risk children, a nature preserve and an agricultural center.

“They raise a lot of breadfruit,” Brown said. “They are looking at ways to market the flour they process from it because it is gluten free. They also grow and process cocoa, coconut oil, turmeric, dried ginger and a few other products but one of their challenges is to get the products to market in the center of the country or elsewhere in a part of the world where ground transportation is a challenge. Traveling to Wawashang from Managua is a seven-hour drive and two speedboat rides.”

Bowser and Brown said they enjoyed their volunteer experiences in Nicaragua.

“The Farmer-to-Farmer program has been very successful because it brings ordinary American civilians together with ordinary citizens of the countries we are working with,” Bowser said. “Farmer-to-Farmer helps the people it serves to better their health and wellbeing, which can improve conditions in the entire country.”

FAPC, a part of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, helps to discover, develop, and deliver technical and business information that stimulates and supports the growth of value-added food and agricultural products and processing in Oklahoma.

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Oklahoma State University is a modern land-grant university that prepares students for success. OSU has more than 36,000 students across its five-campus system and more than 25,000 on its combined Stillwater and Tulsa campuses, with students from all 50 states and around 120 nations. Established in 1890, Oklahoma State has graduated more than 260,000 students who have been serving Oklahoma and the world for 125 years.