A spring break somewhere warm is the ideal for the average college student in the northwest. However, for a group of 29 UW students who traveled to Panama this past spring break as a Global Business Brigade, the experience was less about laying on the beach and more about working on the farm.
Global Brigades is an international non-profit organization that sends groups of students into developing countries to sustainably improve living conditions for impoverished populations, and the UW chapter of the business brigades just returned from their second trip this past week. The group of mostly Foster School of Business students lived and worked for one week on an agricultural cooperative near the village of Machuca in the Cocle region of Panama, conducting workshops, learning about the lives and livelihoods of the farmers, and investing $2900 in the business in order to improve the quality of life of the members in the long term.
The cooperative consisted of 7 families operating 3 businesses: chicken farming, goat farming, and agricultural production of various crops. The students learned firsthand how the farmers made their living, in the process learning how to milk a goat, process a chicken, farm staple crops, and administer a rural farm. Through working alongside the proprietors, the group was able to understand the farmers, their business, and how it could be improved, and through this knowledge tailored accounting and marketing workshops to the farm, and strategically invested in the community to best improve the farmer’s quality of life in the long term. Infrastructure development and continual business practice improvement were the top priority for both the community and the students, and the money invested in a new chicken coop and other resources to better serve customer demand will help ensure the success of the cooperative.
See the Daily article on GBB here: http://dailyuw.com/2010/4/20/Global-Business/
–David Almeida, Junior