The Monsanto Company recently awarded its yearly Monsanto Fund donations to local non-governmental organizations, focusing this year on STEM and agricultural sciences programs. Through the Monsanto Fund U.S. Site Grants program, the company has given a total of $20,000 to the Sor Isolina Ferré Centers (CSIF) and the Puerto Rico Technoeconomic Corridor (PRTEC).
“Maintaining communication and collaboration channels with our communities and our neighbors has been a longstanding effort which we are very proud of,” said Miguel Pereira, Monsanto Puerto Rico Community Affairs Manager. “These efforts have reaped excellent results, especially when it comes to students pursuing or considering studies in science, agriculture, agronomy, and technology. We encourage all these students to move forward and, to the extent that we can, count on us.”
The $10,000 grant for the CSIF will be awarded to the ‘Science for All Program’, which aims to inspire curiosity and motivate students to explore science principles and career opportunities in scientific fields. Through the program, the CSIF will once again send its Science Mobile, the center’s traveling laboratory, to low income communities in the towns of Juana Diaz and Santa Isabel.
“Thanks to Monsanto’s support, for the past two years we have brought science workshops to more than 160 low income students in Juana Diaz, Santa Isabel, Coamo, Salinas, Canóvanas, and San Juan. The experience in the Science Mobile has awakened in them an additional interest in the sciences that we hope to continue fostering in the future through our partnership with the Monsanto Fund,” said José L. Díaz Cotto, CSIF chief executive officer.
From August to December 2018, CSIF plans to reach 150 elementary, middle, and high school students through 15 four-hour after-school seminars in the Science Mobile laboratory. These seminars will include a gamut of STEM topics, from chemistry, physics, and lab safety, to robotics, cloning, and agricultural biotechnology. Also, 32 students will have the opportunity to visit the Monsanto facilities in Juana Díaz to learn first-hand about the latest advancements in agricultural biotechnology.
“Contributing and supporting our communities is part of who we are and what we do at Monsanto. It’s part of our DNA,” shared Eric Torres, site enablement lead at Monsanto Puerto Rico. “We are very proud to continue collaborating in the development of our communities, through partner organizations, such as the Sor Isolina Ferré Centers and the Puerto Rico Technoeconomic Corridor. Today’s donation is a bit special for us, as it allows us to collaborate on projects aimed at agricultural sciences, technology, and biotechnology.”
The $10,000 Monsanto Fund grant awarded to PRTEC will be used for its AgroVentures program which encourages students to pursue research and agribusiness opportunities in Puerto Rico. Through the initiative, PRTEC plans to reach 25 academically outstanding high school students from the Municipality of Isabela. The first phase of the program will consist of a 50-hours after school curriculum on agriculture, agronomy, and agribusiness topics. The second phase will allow the students to grow their own farm lot at PRTEC’s Finca Explora facilities in Isabela.
“PRTEC is grateful for the continued support received from Monsanto Caribe for the Finca Explora project, in this case with the $10,000 donation to work with young people from the communities neighboring the project in Isabela on the topic of agricultural entrepreneurship,” expressed Nelson Perea, PRTEC executive director. “These young people represent the future of the country and it is important that they learn early the importance and opportunities there are in agriculture on the island.”
These are the second and third initiatives in which Monsanto has collaborated with the PRTEC and the CSIF, respectively. Last April, PRTEC officially opened Finca Explora, the first agrotechnological incubator in Puerto Rico. For this reason, PRTEC held a presentation at Finca Explora’s new facilities in Isabela, which are worth $1 million. These facilities came from a donation that PRTEC received from Monsanto in June 2017. Finca Explora began partial operations in December 2017 with the first three tenants from its acceleration program. They include Duamed Colón of Agrotropical, Reinaldo Acevedo of Agriwest, and Carlos Torres of Empresas Torres.
Fifteen participants have already registered in those workshops, while 12 of them are finalizing their business plans to proceed with land distribution at Finca Explora and start planting crops such as sweet corn, sweet potato, taro, pineapple, passion fruit, peppers, white beans, and pumpkins, as well as cover crops, vegetables, and spices. PRTEC indicated that it has identified other sources of additional funds to gather more resources and secure the project’s self-sufficiency.
During October 2017, Monsanto Company extended its support of disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico by donating $250,000 to the CSIF’s “Solidary Embrace with Puerto Rico” Program. The affected families in the Manzanilla Community in Juana Díaz were the first to receive the help from the CSIF, given to them based on the needs identified via a house-to-house census. In addition to a basic grocery purchase, water and cleaning products, several families that had significant losses received new mattresses, gas stoves, with their gas tank included, and an economic incentive that will help them meet other needs.
Back in September 2016, coinciding with the celebration of Biosciences Week, Monsanto made its first alliance with the CSIF, to expand the range of the Science Mobile. Through the Science Mobile, the CSIF offered science workshops at four public housing projects or marginalized communities in the towns of Juana Diaz and Santa Isabel. This initiative is possible thanks to a $10,000 donation from the Monsanto Fund to the establish the Science for All Program.
The first workshop, which offered the theme of agricultural biotechnology for the first time in the Science Mobile, was offered to students living in the Leonardo Santiago Public Housing Project in Juana Díaz. Ten students from various public schools in the area worked for two hours on various topics, such as basic laboratory rules, and explored topics in the areas of chemistry and physics.
They also learned basic concepts of agricultural biotechnology or the application of genetic improvements to agricultural products, which Monsanto uses in Puerto Rico in various research projects related to the development of cotton, soy, and corn seeds.