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December 2, 2019

Meet Rachel Rasmussen: the newest addition to the EcoAgriculture Partners team

Manon KoningsteinEcoAgriculture Partners

EcoAgriculture Cornell-based intern Rachel Rasmussen has already been on board for some months, working together with Dr. Louise Buck (EcoAgriculture´s Director of Landscape Management Innovation and faculty member of Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources). – so time to learn a bit more about Rachel and her scope of work!

EcoAg: Tell us a bit more about yourself and your background.

Rachel: As I grew up in Central Pennsylvania, surrounded by rural agricultural communities, it wasn’t a surprise I ended up studying for an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies with a minor in Geography at Pennsylvania State University. There, I had the opportunity to travel to Peru as a biological technician, where we measured carbon sequestration and methane outputs in the Amazon Basin and high altitude peat bogs in the Andes.

After University I joined the Peace Corps and served 27 months in Southern Paraguay as an Agricultural Extensionist, where I taught in the schools, built community gardens, kept bees, and conducted agroforestry projects. The main focus of my service was in leadership development for the community’s Water Commission. In collaboration with the San Roque Water Commission, we wrote and funded the establishment of a pump and well system for potable water access to community households. As I was closing out of my service, the Water Commission was working to implement a long term sustainability plan for well-system maintenance and community financial support. 

I returned to the US following my close of service and took a job with a youth-focused nonprofit called Valley Youth House, as a program coordinator and eventually program supervisor for three programs focused on life skills building and resource security. There, I oversaw the street outreach program, transitional living program, and LGBT drop-in center for HIV at-risk youth. My work domestically was very fulfilling, but my desire to work with food systems and climate change mitigation and adaptation led me to pursue a graduate degree through Cornell’s Masters in Global Development Program. 

EcoAg: Why are you interested in working with EcoAgriculture Partners?

Throughout my previous work and educational experiences, I’ve actively sought opportunities to work in and with concepts of sustainability. I believe that climate change represents a great existential threat to humanity, that can only be approached with incredible efforts of collaborative problem-solving.

As I explored Cornell’s faculty in pursuit of an academic advisor, I felt that the work Louise Buck is doing on sustainable landscapes felt very impactful and unique in its strategy. 

I was thrilled to be offered an internship with EcoAgriculture Partners, to learn from the incredible work they are undertaking for climate change adaptation and mitigation through a collaborative landscape approach.

EcoAg: While working with EcoAgriculture Partners, what are you most proud of? 

I really appreciate the work I’ve been doing with Louise Buck to refine the Climate Smart Agriculture Landscape curriculum (disseminated this past year in Tanzania). I’ve been working to increase clarity and fluidity in the curriculum, while also researching partnership and extension methods for curriculum longevity and practicality. I will also have the opportunity to work on tailoring the Landscape CSA curriculum to target populations such as women and youth.

I also supported the preparation of the African Landscapes Dialogue (ALD), and I am thrilled to see the success of the event.

EcoAg: And what are you most looking forward to?

In January, Louise and I will be traveling to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania for a post-training and Lessons Learned evaluation. There, I will have the opportunity to learn more about the hands-on work that EcoAgriculture Partners does with their international counterparts, and how these activities contribute to the overall goal of sustainable and productive agricultural landscapes that serve both ecosystems and communities. 

EcoAg: How do you think working with EcoAg will help you achieve your personal career goals?

After I achieve my graduate degree, I hope to continue working for organizations and agencies that further the mission and values that EcoAgriculture focuses on. Therefore, any hands-on experience that I have within this realm will only better prepare me for a future career in this work. I look forward to observing the strategies that EcoAgriculture Partners utilizes to transform landscapes and inspire the decision-makers and political actors who influence them.

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