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Started in 2011, the APPEAR-project "Changing Minds and Structures: the Nicaraguan Agricultural University's Growing Involvement with Rural Communities (DEPARTIR)" focuses on two main objectives: the institutional development of the Agricultural University in Managua/Nicaragua (UNA) on the one hand, and a growing involvement with rural communities in order to better respond to their demands and needs and to contribute to a higher and more stable family income on the other hand.
The project is one of the first projects in the framework of the "Austrian Partnership Programme in Higher Education and Research for Development" (APPEAR). It sets up an academic partnership between UNA in Managua/Nicaragua, the Austrian University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna/Austria and the Foundation Casa de los Tres Mundos situated in Granada/Nicaragua.
The core of the project is UNA's programme for integral participatory rural development which was founded in 2006: Students and professors work together with small and medium-sized producers in various regions of Nicaragua, establishing participatory community and farm diagnostics. One training tool which was successfully developed within the new academic partnership will support this program: the film "How to make a soil monolith model".
At the kick-off meeting of DEPARTIR in May 2011 in Managua, soil scientists of the Universidad Nacional Agraria were very fond of the idea of producing soil monolith models, a practice already in use at BOKU for teaching as well as research.
It is a fairly easy and inexpensive procedure, but the product is highly useful: a preserved piece of soil in a frame, where the original structure and color of the soil remain unaltered. The characteristics of different types of soils can be easily shown and compared. Especially in Nicaragua, where there is a big variety of climatic zones and types of soils, a collection of soil monolith models can be helpful both for teaching and for the cooperation with small farmers throughout the country.
As the procedure takes some time, it is not easily explained in a traditional workshop. Thus, the team of DEPARTIR-BOKU came up with the idea of making a video that will serve as an instruction for the production of soil monolith models. Along with a written manual, every step will be shown and explained, from the extraction of the monolith to the laboratory work.
Over the summer 2011, the project team together with the Center for IT and Multimedia Services of BOKU have been busy writing story-boards, planning and preparing different scenes and filming in a gravel pit outside of Vienna as well as the BOKU laboratories. With the help of an agronomy student of the Universitat Politècnica de Valencia, the video is being shot in Spanish language. As soon as the filming and cutting was finished, the video and manual was provided to UNA.
Transferring useful techniques, such as the preparation of soil monolith models, contributes to the two main goals of the APPEAR project: strengthening both the university's educational capacities and its involvement with rural communities.
APPEAR is a programme of the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) to strengthen institutional capacities in higher education, research and management in the key regions of ADC through academic partnerships. It is implemented by the Austrian Agency for International Cooperation in Education and Research (OeAD) and the Latin-America Institute (LAI).