Nearly two billion people globally are, on a regular basis, unable to grow or get enough food to eat. Whether due to conflict, drought, flooding or disease, finding out where the next meal is coming from is a preoccupation for most of the world’s poor.
But what does food insecurity look like at a local level? In Uganda, for example, it may be conveyed in crop failure and low agricultural productivity. In Cuba, it’s the long line-ups at the farmers market for basic produce, such as lettuce and plantains.
Dal students majoring in International Development Studies will soon get a chance to learn about food security issues on the ground. The Department of International Development Studies, part of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, has been approved for funding from the Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada (AUCC) to create 20 internships with Dalhousie’s partner organizations in Uganda and Cuba. The international internships will allow students to “get their hands dirty,” working in a very, practical hands-on way in agricultural projects and urban gardens, as well as on policy development and education.
“Our students are always asking for more practical experience so we’re very excited to be able to offer these internships,” says John Cameron, chair of the Department of International Development Studies. “The first group will leave in January 2012.”
As well as the internships, there are two other components to the $260,000, three-year, CIDA-approved project. Besides Dal students going overseas on international internships, graduate students from the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Havana in Cuba and from the Faculty of Development Studies at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) in Uganda will be able to come to Dalhousie to spend a semester.
“It will be a huge asset to have students from Cuba and Uganda here—they have a unique perspective to bear on development issues,” says Dr. Cameron. “Plus, it’s a chance for us to return the favor and maintain genuinely reciprocal arrangements with our partners in Cuba and Uganda.”
The third component is the establishment of an Internet-based seminar course that will link students at Dalhousie and Mbarara universities—”allowing students to discuss, debate and work in groups with students who are in a classroom 10,000 kilometres away,” says Dr. Cameron. The funding will provide for technological upgrades at both universities to make the class possible.
Fourth-year IDS student Katelynn Northam calls the changes “super exciting.”
“I think it’s an awesome opportunity to have cross-cultural dialogue with students from developing countries,” she says. “It’s invaluable to be able to speak to students who have some experience with what the realities are in developing countries.”
Dalhousie’s links with both countries are well established. First offered in 1999, the class Cuban Culture and Society offers Dal students an in depth look at Cuba, and includes two weeks of classes in Havana. The Cuba Semester Program is a longer, 13-week program, with classes offered in Spanish at Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Havana. In Uganda, the East Africa field studies program led by Professor Owen Willis has also provided Dal students a cross-cultural experience for many years.
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