Progress report for MW19-008
The U.S. Land Grant System reaches the three island nations (Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Palau, and Republic of the Marshall Islands) served by the College of Micronesia (COM) with the three islands of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) (Saipan, Rota, and Tinian) served by The Northern Marianas College (NMC) and Guam served by the University of Guam (UOG). These are geographically isolated islands spread over a large area of the Pacific Ocean. There are significant barriers to promoting and coordinating SARE activities and trainings in these islands. Technical expertise is spread thin across these three institutions. Transportation costs have been a significant barrier to conducting sustainable agriculture and other trainings. In the most recent multi-state PDP enhanced state program grant, six WSARE island liaisons were trained (weekly 1-2 hour trainings) across these islands using the Zoom platform successfully on cellular phones, laptops, and desktop computers. This project will build on this effort by installing the needed equipment in a conference/class room to effectively deliver sustainable agriculture distance education trainings to groups of agriculture professionals and farmers on each island, simultaneously. This project will pilot using our regional expertise base to deliver multiple trainings across the islands travel-free. The project will equip a conference room with a smart screen, multi-directional microphone, and speakers to deliver a series of 12 sustainable agriculture trainings. Training topics are based on training needs identified in focus groups conducted during the previous year.
Year 1 Update:
The “Pacific Islands” grant activities continued beyond its original time line. This grant is to build on this previous (Pacific Island) grant’s efforts and so was delayed in starting. Just as our activities (initial meetings) were starting COVID19 hit shutting down our islands. Initially our Extension programs were overwhelmed in addressing the direct community needs brought on by COVID19 and adapting to predominately online Extension delivery (a rapid acceleration of needed skill development for this project), and so this grant like many others was put on a virtual hold. Preliminary efforts to restart this effort began in May of 2020 and the grant resumed full swing in November of 2020. A no cost extension will be applied for following submission of this initial year report.
In the US land grant institutions in the western Pacific with their small size, each institution possesses a limited number of agriculture professionals with subject matter expertise. For decades, island needs assessments of agricultural professionals have identified the importance of cooperation between institutions and with our federal and local partners to leverage subject matter expertise in technical support of our agricultural communities. The most significant barrier to these cooperative efforts has been huge distances between the islands and associated travel costs.
A participatory training network using a WSARE distance education conference room may be an answer to this problem. Once in place and accepted, it will also provide a venue for mainland technical experts to provide sustainable agriculture outreach to our islands. This multi-institutional, multi-state project between the University of Guam, the College of Micronesia, and Northern Marianas College will train and support a network of sustainable agriculture coordinators and liaisons, from eight islands in developing this network and utilizing it in a series of 12 monthly sustainable agriculture training’s.
The coordinators and liaisons for this project are identified in this proposal as the cooperators and educators. On each island a WSARE distance education conference room will be identified and then equipped with smart large screen display, a multi-directional microphone, wireless HDMI converter, video camera, and speakers. The principal investigator, cooperators, and educators will be trained in both the hardware and software. A 12 month training schedule will be developed with each educator, cooperator, and PI serving as lead trainer for at least one of the trainings. For each training funding will be provided for honorariums or stipends, to obtain outside expertise, and funds to set up the demonstrations the trainings will be based on. It is expected that video of the demonstration will be part of the training. The cooperators and educators commit to recruit a minimum of three agricultural professionals and farmers to attend each of the 12 monthly trainings but are strongly encouraged to recruit five to ten. If this commitment is fulfilled, the impact of each training would be to reach a minimum of 32 members of the islands’ agricultural communities in the Western Pacific. Island liaisons currently have at least 5 members in their WSARE advisory groups. If all members of the advisory group members attend and bring one peer each we would see 11 participants per site or 88 per session for total potential training contacts of over 1,000 currently undeserved WSARE clients.
Agricultural professionals on each island will prepare the materials for at least one workshop and set up a companion demonstration to provide image/video support for the workshop. Should any site desire to do more than one workshop they will be welcome to do so. The remaining workshops will be prepared and conducted by the University of Guam. Multi site preparation of workshops will also be encouraged.
Year One Update:
Key to the success of this program is to provide trainings that relevant to agricultural trainers and farmers on all the participating islands. Also, important to share peer-to-peer perspectives and adaptations to sustainable agriculture concepts and practices across the islands based on their available resources. So a first step has been to guide the agricultural professional teams to recruit more team members and to identify local partner agricultural professional groups on their islands (see “8 Island 12 Training Site Form”). Next is to survey these professional on what topics they are interested in participating in trainings on. This is ongoing right now. And in the coming weeks a training schedule that is relevant to all our participating islands will be developed.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Orient Islands' teams members on the goals and expectation for them under this grant, also to survey them on their training topic interests.
Worked with the previous grants Land Grant staff to recruit replacement liaisons and expand the teams on each island to 2 to 3 more land grant professionals. In September we began the evolving teams (starting with the liaisons) orientation on the project expectation for the liaisons to grow their team, and started the evaluation and approval of the planned equipment for all sites. By November all teams were on board and the formal monthly meetings started. A first deliverable for each team was to submit an “8 Island 12 Training Site Form” that identifies the committed team members and their contact information. The second and currently ongoing effort was to hold one meeting to brainstorm on training topics and then from this session develop a “Survey for Training Topics Form”. Each team is asked to fill out one copy of the form tallying the team members interest in training topics and to identify one topic they are willing to participate in delivering a training on. They are also asked to take a second copy of the form and tally the interest in trainings among their partner agriculture professionals and farmers.
Teams in place and working on training topics.
This project will build on previous WSARE grants’ efforts by installing, on each participating island, the needed equipment in a conference/class room to effectively deliver sustainable agriculture distance education trainings to groups of agriculture professionals and farmers, simultaneously.
All equipment has been purchased, arrived on Guam, was repackaged and shipped by boat (COVID19 now only available transport) to the islands. Items should arrive in all ports by the last week of March 2021. The equipment includes a 69″ Sony 4k Smart TV for conferencing screen, Full Tilt and Swivel Wall Mount, Logitech WebCam and Microphone (HDPRO C920 1080 p video cam and recording), Bose Solo 5 TV soundbar sound system, a Windows minicomputer, Multi outlet surge protector, Automatic Voltage Regulator, and HDMI and USB cables.
Educational & Outreach Activities
An unintended but very positive outcome is that Guam’s local farmer led Soil and Water Conservation District decided to support this effort by funding a satellite site at the FCAG building with their funds. Some of the equipment (TV) was of a different but locally available brand, 70″ LG 4k Smart TV. They will recruit additional agriculture professionals and farmers to attend the trainings.
On equipment support for the islands, due to the restrictions on flights and air cargo, how cheap it is to ship large equipment items from Guam to the islands.