Brent Peterson conducts a survey with the locals in Malawi (Photo by Gregory Parkhurst)
Brent Peterson conducts a survey with the locals in Malawi. Peterson was part of a team that conducted research to help boost Malawi’s agricultural economy. (Photo by Gregory Parkhurst)

Brent Peterson and Jacob Thompson, two Weber State students, were able to help make an impact in Malawi, Africa by researching, surveying and promoting agriculture to boost Malawi’s economy.

Peterson explained that people often think that they can help serve these communities by sending a truck full of clothes. However, when the truck gets to a village, everyone gets free clothes, but those in the village trying to sell clothes for a living lose all of their business.

It’s the same with bringing food relief, it cripples the economy. What Thompson, Peterson and others are trying to accomplish is helping expand economies like those in Malawi rather than slapping a Band-Aid on the problem.

Peterson said that if students are up for adventure and uncertainty, an opportunity like this is definitely one to seize. To get involved in these programs, students should stay close to their professors, they are always looking for students to help them out.

Andrew Bell, the founder of the program, works for the international food policy research program. The idea of the program was to preserve agriculture and to have it help promote a growth in economy in third world countries.

This particular project is the product of two years of subsidizing farming in 60 different villages in Malawi. They are trying to get more funds from the world bank to keep the program running longer.

Gregory Parkhurst, the advisor of this program, explained that the program is being used, to help encourage the adoption of the use of technology. Although the outcome is uncertain, Parkhurst and his colleagues are hopeful of the outcome.

The majority of Peterson and Thompson’s job was to conduct a survey using tablets. They used a program called CS PRO.  Neither of the students had any computer or IT background, so they had to learn the program from the ground up.

“It speaks volumes on the two of them,” Parkhurst said.

Parkhurst explained that there are a lot of opportunities for students to have similar experiences to what Peterson and Thompson experienced in Malawi. Sometimes the outcome is worth much more than the price paid,whether it results in memories or future opportunities.

Thompson will be spending the next several months in Asia helping do international work. He wouldn’t have had this opportunity if not for his time in Malawi.

When he first learned about this opportunity, Peterson’s wife told him that if he didn’t go he would be losing out on a chance of a lifetime.

Julie Rich, a professor at Weber State University also took a group of students to Africa this last summer. They went to Mozambique to help build a women’s center.

“These types of programs add another dimension to students’ education,” said Rich, “They learned that they have tremendous power, that they can make a great change in the world, and that they can reach out and change a person’s life.”

 

 

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