St. Olaf College student Kelly Meza Prado ’16 received a grant from the Davis Projects for Peace initiative that she will use to build rustic greenhouses aimed at addressing agricultural issues in rural Peru.
The $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grants are awarded to students who use creativity and innovation in the development of a project that both promotes peace and addresses the root cause of conflict among parties. Over the past five years, eight St. Olaf students have received the prestigious award.
Meza Prado, who hails from Concepcion, Peru, will use her grant to construct rustic greenhouses for the Chicche population in a rural area of the Peruvian Andes. She plans to use the greenhouses as a way to counteract agricultural challenges.
“Climate change in the region has triggered more extreme and unpredictable weather,” says Meza Prado. “These conditions make it impossible to grow vegetables in open spaces. Thus, the diet of the people of Chicche today consists mainly of potatoes and other carbohydrates, lacking the complementary nutrients that vegetables provide.”
Meza Prado aims to translate agricultural and economic stability into long-term peace for the region.
“Beyond my own academic and vocational interests, I am also an advocate for peace,” she says. “I believe that by leading this project I will not only experience the work I will be doing in my professional life, but I am also confident that this project will rebuild the harmony and prevent potential conflict in my community.”
Meza Prado’s passion for confronting this issue began when she worked for the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics in Peru during a gap year.
“For six months I lived in rural communities of the central Peruvian Andes, including Chicche, where I witnessed and experienced the lack of vegetables in their daily meals,” she says. “I came to the conclusion that if I facilitate a way for Chicche to have an independent supply of vegetables despite the challenging weather, it would alleviate both malnutrition and poverty in Chicche.”
Meza Prado’s greenhouses will use solar energy to create an ideal environment for growing vegetables. Each greenhouse will be built with adobe, which the Chicche people use to build their own homes, and agrofilm, an amber polyethylene film that can transmit up to 90 percent of visible light and heat.
“Unlike foreign agricultural technology, the construction of rustic greenhouses utilizes the knowledge of the community, combining it with modern greenhouse materials,” says Meza Prado.
Meza Prado, who is majoring in economics and environmental studies at St. Olaf, drew from her classes and extracurricular activities as a SustainAbilities representative to create an ideal design for the greenhouses and the project in general.
“In an environmental studies class in my first semester of college, I wrote a policy brief titled ‘Peru’s Vulnerability Against Climate Change — What can be done?’” she says. “The feedback I received made me seriously consider writing a proposal for Davis Projects for Peace. The class was tremendously inspiring because every topic related to climate change had a connection with what I had seen during my gap year.”
Meza Prado will partner with Caritas Internationalis-Peru, an organization that works with grassroots projects around the world. The group will provide agronomist engineers with experiences in constructing greenhouses to accompany and facilitate their installation.
“I plan to pursue environmental justice,” says Meza Prado. “I am interested in studying food systems and adaptation measures of communities already affected by climate change. Working with Caritas-Peru will give me the opportunity to start networking with an organization that is doing similar work.”
A ‘United’ front
The Davis Projects for Peace grants are open to all students (both international and domestic) at the 94 Davis United World College partner schools. St. Olaf has been a member college in the UWC program since the fall of 2008, and 46 of the college’s current international students are Davis UWC Scholars.