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NMSU teams up with University of Arizona to train Mexican universities in extension

New Mexico State University’s Cooperative Extension Service has partnered with the University of Arizona to help several Mexican universities increase their capacity to develop and deliver extension programs in rural communities throughout Mexico.



Representatives from universities in Mexico attended a training session in April at NMSU to learn more about Project REINU, a partnership between NMSU and the University of Arizona to create a university-based extension service in Mexico. (Courtesy photo)

Representatives from NMSU visited the University of Guadalajara recently as part of Project REINU, a partnership between NMSU and the University of Arizona to create a university-based extension service in Mexico. (Courtesy photo)

Members of the NMSU team, along with the rectors and representatives of 19 Mexican universities, traveled to Washington, D.C., in early August to meet with representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and congressional staff. Since then, the NMSU team has made site and training visits to the University of Chihuahua, University of Guanajuato and four University of Guadalajara campuses.

The program, called Project REINU, or Red De Extensión e Innovación Nacional Universitaria, has been in the works for about a year and has spread rapidly throughout Mexico.

“The basic concept of REINU has been a 15-year conversation between Mexico and the U.S., championed by Dr. David Hansen (of NMSU),” said Paul Gutierrez, a professor and extension specialist in the NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences’ Department of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business. “Dr. Hansen’s vision was for a Mexican extension model sustainable beyond the next government, and one that makes a real and substantive impact on rural poverty in Mexico. Dr. Hansen believed, as many of us do, that a university-led extension model is the key to a sustainable Mexico extension model – REINU. Dr. Hansen also recognized that positive rural development in Mexico, led by university-based extension programs, could be the most effective immigration policy for Mexico and the U.S.”

Mexico’s secretary for agriculture, livestock, rural development, fisheries and nutrition, or SAGARPA (Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación), is also supporting Project REINU and is funding the initiative.

“We have been sharing best practices of the land-grant model with our Mexican university colleagues in an intentional effort to help them institutionalize REINU Extension work on their campuses and in their rural communities,” Gutierrez said. “We originally started with six universities and ended up with 19 universities with seven hub universities.”

Both NMSU and the University of Arizona are land-grant universities.

Recently, Project REINU has expanded to a total of 52 universities, Gutierrez said. The rapid expansion leaves room for more U.S.-based universities to get involved, provided the Mexican government continues its commitment to the project. Officials from the University of Arizona have said the goal is to include 80 universities in Project REINU by 2018.

“REINU is an example of a bridge in binational education and extensions,” said Cristina Morán Mirabal, the project’s coordinator at the University of Guadalajara. “It’s a long and difficult to cross bridge, but is a really necessary bridge for all the rural communities in Mexico. This is the reason why all the universities that are participating along with the government have as a flag the commitment to serve and improve the opportunities of all these rural communities.”

So far, teams from NMSU and the University of Arizona have visited Mexico several times to learn about youth and agricultural programs there, and representatives from universities of Mexico have visited NMSU and the University of Arizona to attend training sessions and learn more about extension.

Mexican Deputy Secretary of Rural Development Juan Manuel Verdugo Rosas said his country’s partnership with NMSU and the University of Arizona will help with strategies, tools and technologies that will improve the quality of life in rural communities. As a result of the partnership, the public and private Mexican universities have helped 57 rural communities in 14 states in Mexico and have directly benefitted 10,000 producers, Verdugo Rosas said.

Verdugo Rosas also pointed out that 57 coordinators, 166 researchers and teachers and more than 600 university students in Mexico have participated in Project REINU.

Gutierrez said the project’s initial focus is on youth development, with the hope that it will eventually gain the trust and interest of parents in rural communities. In April, representatives from the University of Chihuahua visited the NMSU campus to learn about research, instruction and extension. They visited NMSU’s Experiment Stations and observed crop and livestock research, learned how the NMSU County Extension office operates and the programs it offers, and spent time observing and interacting with 4-H youth faculty, members and volunteer leaders in order to gain an understanding of the 4-H program.

Eduardo Medina, the small farm and ranch outreach coordinator for NMSU’s Cooperative Extension Service Economics and Economic Development, said Project REINU will take advantage of Mexico’s culture of volunteerism, which comes from Mexico’s requirement that every college student obtain 480 hours of community service by their last semester in school. Medina said he hopes freshmen students will eventually train others when they become seniors.

The project will also eventually include student participation on the U.S. side. One of the first NMSU students on board is Kimberly Salinas, a freshman track athlete who is studying athletic training.

“As a student, you want to learn how to be involved and have leadership experience helping people,” Salinas said. “Through this experience, I think it will be the best way to learn rather than reading about it.”

For more information about Project REINU, contact Gutierrez at pgutierr@ad.nmsu.edu, Medina at emw@nmsu.edu or Luz Urquijo at urquijo@nmsu.edu.