Hydrology expert mentors Honduran researcher through USDA fellowship

Shimelis Setegn, program executive officer of the Global Waters for Sustainability Program (GLOWS) and professor of environmental and occupational health, recently made a mentoring visit to Zamorano Agricultural University in Honduras.

The exchange was part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Borlaug Fellowship Program, which provides research and training opportunities for scientists and policymakers from developing and middle-income countries. USDA partners with U.S. land grant universities, including FIU, international research centers and other institutions to provide U.S.-based training for Borlaug Fellows each year.

Providing support and resources for training

Initially granted to Alexandra Manueles, assistant professor in the Department of Environment and Development at Zamorano Agricultural University, the fellowship program facilitated her visiting FIU in October 2012. For eight weeks, the Honduran professor worked closely with her mentor, Setegn, using geographic information system (GIS) and soil and water assessment tools to create watershed models. A watershed is an area of land where all of the water that is under it, or drains off of it, goes into the same place.

“Research initiatives in Honduras are currently being carried out involving faculty and students at both universities. Both institutions can potentially host a series of training events to strengthen capacities for faculty, technicians and the general public,” Manueles said. “GLOWS provided me great support and resources for my training, I’m very satisfied with the experience.”

‘A great starting point for our relationship’

Setegn (left) and Manueles (right) pose at a local watershed in Santa Ines, Honduras.

Setegn (left) and Manueles (right) pose at a local watershed in Santa Ines, Honduras.

Setegn, in turn, visited his mentee this summer to provide further training on GIS and watershed modeling. The onsite training helped developed strategies for sustainable use of land and water resources in local watersheds. Setegn also visited four local watersheds in the rural areas surrounding the campus. The FIU researcher also led a seminar for the university community on sustainable water resource management, and lectured and trained students on hydrological modeling and water resources management training.

“The university wants to involve us in existing projects to benefit from our expertise in hydrology, water resources management and capacity-building. We have discussed with them how to strengthen our partnership and create mutual opportunities. This entire experience was a great starting point for our relationship. I believe in the future we could have together.”

Setegn and his GLOWS colleagues are currently working on a scientific publication titled, “Sustainability of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM): Water Governance, Climate and Echo-hydrology.” Researchers from Zamorano Agircultural University were invited to contribute to the book and have submitted chapters. The publication is pending publication early next year.

The Borlaug Fellowship Program honors Norman E. Borlaug, the American agronomist, humanitarian and Nobel laureate who is known as the “father of the Green Revolution.” Since the program’s inception in 2004, around 700 fellows from 64 countries have participated in research and training focused on a variety of agriculture-related topics, including agronomy, veterinary science, food safety, sanitary issues, natural resource management and global climate change.

GLOWS is a consortium of international organizations led by FIU, working to increase social, economic and environmental benefits to people of the developing world. The program is an integral component of FIU’s School of Environment, Arts and Society in the College of Arts & Sciences. It provides expertise across the policy, governance, educational and technical dimensions of integrated water resources management.

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