Two UCR graduate students tackle international development projects

They are among 40 UC graduate students selected for US Agency for International Development fellowships

Pedro Piqueras standing outside the United Nations

Pedro Piqueras outside the United Nations In August, 2015. Photo credit: Stuart Ramson/AP

UCR graduate student Eleinis Avila-Lovera hopes to build sweeter profits for cacao farmers in her native Venezuela. And South African Pedro Piqueras, a chemical and environmental engineering Ph.D. student at UCR’s Bourns College of Engineering, is intent on making safe air a basic human right.

The two are among approximately 40 graduate students from four University of California campuses – Berkeley, Davis, Riverside and Santa Cruz – selected for U.S. Agency for International Development fellowships co-sponsored by the UC Global Food Initiative.

Piqueras will be characterizing aerosol emissions and their impacts on agriculture in South Africa, through the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Natural Resources and the Environment.

Last August, Piqueras was one of five students chosen from  400 applicants to launch a global campaign in the Millennium Health Prize category for his plan to make safe air a basic human right.

Piqueras launched his campaign at the 7th Annual Millennium Campus Conference, a program of the Millennium Campus Network at the United Nations headquarters. It was attended by students and politicians from more than 50 nations. You can read more about his campaign here. 

Eleinis Avila-Lovera

Eleinis Avila-Lovera

Biologist Avila-Lovera will return to Venezuela to resume work with the Universidad Central de Venezuela on cultivating cacao in an agroforestry system.

Her project aims to increase incomes for local farmers and diversify their operations by encouraging them to grow a less-common but higher quality cacao variety, Criollo, along with growing timber for wood, a mix that also can help maintain native plants and animals.

“You can see that the science you’re doing matters and can help people,” Avila-Lovera said. “We hope to help local farmers make decisions on plants they need to grow depending on the conditions of their farm.”

Graduate student fellows will spend two to six months helping partner organizations solve scientific, technological, organizational and business challenges.

USAID’s Global Development Lab launched the program a year ago with six universities, including UC Berkeley and UC Davis. The UC Global Food Initiative is co-sponsoring fellowships to help expand the program at UC Berkeley and to help UC Davis to extend its program to include fellowships at UC Riverside and UC Santa Cruz.

UC-USAID fellows will participate in projects in 20 countries on four continents. The UC Davis, UC Riverside and UC Santa Cruz fellows focus on agriculture and natural resources as part of the Research and Innovation Fellowship for Agriculture program. UC Berkeley fellows cover a broad array of international development areas as part of the Global Development Fellows program.

For more information about the other fellows, read here.

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