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6 Marian students takes Belgian challenge at NIP for collaborative community innovation

Saint Mary’s University proudly sent six students and one esteemed faculty coach to participate in the prestigious North Intensive Program (NIP) held from January 29 to February 09, 2023, at Vives University of Applied Sciences in Belgium. This program, renowned for its commitment to fostering innovation and collaboration, brings together students from diverse backgrounds to form multinational and interdisciplinary teams. These teams are tasked with addressing the pressing challenges of the 21st century, particularly those originating in the local communities of West Flanders.

Among the six Marians were Marcus Angelo Ajaban, BS Nursing 3; Jyrus Alain Bulatao, BS Psychology 3; Jehoiaquim Lenoer Cordova, BS Biology 2; Juan Miguel Llacuna 2, BS Biology 2; Leo Estocapio, BS Business Administration major in Marketing Management 3; Shannen Soliven, BS Accountancy 4. Together with their faculty coach Dr. Elsa Cajucom, Director, Center for Natural Sciences.

As a significant component of their major presentation, the participants were provided with materials essential for constructing their own prototypes. These prototypes were developed based on the real-world cases presented by stakeholders of the Synergy Program. This hands-on approach allowed the participants to translate theoretical concepts into tangible solutions, fostering innovation and practical problem-solving skills among the group.

Juan Miguel Llacuna, one of the six Marian delegates, was one of the proponents of the group’s compelling case on Agroforestry. Their innovative approach, centered on the concept of inter cropping – the practice of cultivating multiple crops in the same area simultaneously, garnered them the prestigious Jury’s Award for Best Case Output. Their comprehensive plan introduced three pivotal elements: leveraging Black Pepper as a High-Value Cash Crop, integrating Rhubarb and Pumpkin for Low-Maintenance cultivation, and implementing Mini-Machinery for enhanced efficiency in cultivation processes. This strategic combination showcases their dedication to sustainable agricultural practices and underscores their commitment to addressing contemporary agricultural challenges with forward-thinking solutions.

Llacuna shared that the wall nut tree farmers wants to maximize the space between the trees with 8×3 so they come up with a solution  to introduce the black pepper in to the Belgians, “because black pepper is a high value crop and has a good market but this crop will be experimental that will be place beside the diameter of the tree and the two crops that we propose is the rhubarb and the pumpkin where the labor intensity is only in planting and harvesting”, he explained.

They proposed also mini machinery that will able to cultivate inside the area of 8×3 to help the farmers to plant faster with the solution, “we are expecting to establish or attain what we propose to be successful in the wall nut farmers,” he added.

Furthermore, Jyrus Alain Bulatao, one of the members of the Plastic Nieuwpoort team, which clinched the prestigious Audience Award. Their innovative initiative centered around the creation of “Polly”, the Pollution Monster, serving as the centerpiece of an engaging Interactive Awareness Campaign aimed at combatting plastic pollution in Ganzepoot’s canals and estuary. Bulatao emphasized Polly’s role in undergoing a dramatic transformation into a formidable trash monster, strategically designed to elicit emotional reactions from children and families, ultimately discouraging littering behaviors.

This imaginative approach not only captivated the audience but also underscored the team’s commitment to fostering environmental consciousness and effecting positive change within their community.

The Intensive Program (IP), established in 2019, stands as a testament to the collaborative efforts between higher education institutions in the Philippines and West Flanders. These IP sessions represent short yet intensive study programs, where students and educators from both Philippine and Belgian institutions unite to delve into development-relevant themes. Specifically focusing on sustainable agriculture, entrepreneurship, and climate change.

These programs serve as platforms for meaningful collaboration and knowledge exchange which allows Marians to enrich their internalization experience. By engaging in this intensive program, Saint Mary’s University aims to contribute to the discovery of creative solutions and the advancement of global problem-solving initiatives.#

Written by Shannen Soliven

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