MDP Villarraga awarded Lucas Travel Grant, project with Rainforest Alliance, Guatemala

Congratulations to Maria Camila Villarraga, Master of Development Practice candidate at the Humphrey School on being awarded the David Lucas Travel Grant for her summer field experience in Guatemala.

Project Title: Improving livelihoods for the communities and supporting natural resource conservation in the Petén through the Maya Nut’s commercialization

Project Supervisor: Dean Current, Department of Forest Resources

Project Summary:  The Petén is a vulnerable rural region in Guatemala which has an economy that focuses mainly on agriculture activities. Currently, the local communities and NGOs have raised interest in promoting the Maya Nut (or Ramon seed) as a crop that can improve the livelihoods and wellbeing of the rural indigenous communities. Besides the Maya Nut’s high nutritional value, it is characterized by high germination and good survival rates, which make it a cheap crop to maintain and a product with market potential. Thus, the field experience will intend to determine strategies to improve livelihoods for the communities and to support natural resource conservation in the Petén through the Maya Nut’s commercialization in partnership with Rainforest Alliance and the Association of Community Forest of Petén. Additionally, the field experience objectives are: (1) To develop a value chain analysis for the Maya Nut to understand its complexity and detect optimization opportunities (2) To identify value added options in the production of the Maya Nut and evaluate their ability to generate employment, income and improve well- being in local communities (3) To evaluate how the increase of the Maya Nut production will influence the livelihoods of the individuals, households and communities in the Petén.(4) To coordinate with the Food Science and Nutrition Department at UMN to analyze the properties of the Maya Nut in order to evaluate possible market opportunities.

In the fall of 2013 David Lucas was a first year MPP student studying global policy. Before coming to the Humphrey School, he taught political systems and world history in Cali, Colombia, and before that he taught American History, American Government, Sociology and World Geography at West Branch High School in Iowa. He grew up in a family of seven in northeastern Iowa. In the short time David was with us at the Humphrey School, his new friends and colleagues benefited from his rich life experience and his intellectual rigor, and our community was deeply saddened by his untimely death.

 Thanks to a thoughtful and generous contribution from the Lucas family, the Humphrey School is now able to offer $500.00 to a current Humphrey student interested in work related to a HHH degree which requires travel to the central or southern regions of the Western Hemisphere (South or Central America, the Caribbean).
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