Wednesday, February 8, 2012

MRPers in Latin America, Part II

The Student Multidisciplinary Applied Research Team (SMART) Program, sponsored by the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture, and Development (CIIFAD), connects teams of students and faculty from a variety of disciplines with firms, organizations, or community groups located in developing countries to work on sustainable global development projects. During the winter break, teams complete two to eight week assignments in a developing country. The program challenges students to apply the knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to help ameliorate problems related to global food security, sustainable rural development and environmental conservation.

In January, Kristofer Goddard (MRP’12), Maren Hill (MRP ’13), Ben Koffel (MRP ’12), and Stefanie Levner (MBA ’12) traveled to Honduras to participate in this program. Their client was AguaClara, a Cornell engineering organization that designs gravity-fed water treatment plants, built with locally available materials, and operated by technicians with less than a high school education. The primary task of the group was to document the success of the projects and develop a public relations plan and associated collateral that AguaClara could use to communicate with potential partners and donors. Throughout the two weeks the students were in Honduras they visited several communities with operating plants and met with local water board officials to learn more about the governance models that have made the plants successful. “The trip was a fantastic experience to collaborate so closely with engineers and to understand both the technology and the governance structures that enable successful municipal service delivery in emerging markets,” said Ben Koffel. Professor Mildred Warner also joined the students for a few days to investigate the governance models that go alongside the technology. Students also recorded and conducted approximately forty interviews with users about the impact that clean water has on their health. This information will be used to help AguaClara communicate its successes.

Professor Mildred Warner and SMART team members Ben Koffel, Maren Hill, Kris Goddard, and Stefanie Levner spent time interviewing community members to generate public relations collateral that the organization could use to better communicate their message.  Image provided by Ben Koffel. 
 The team  visited a water treatment plant designed by the AguaClara team at Cornell in the town of Alauca, Honduras.  There, students learned about how the community is involved in operating the plants and managing their service delivery.  Image provided by Ben Koffel.

(Information provided by Ben Koffel)