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University of Oklahoma Strengthens Latin American Sustainability through $15 Million PERU-Hub

May 18, 2022

University of Oklahoma Strengthens Latin American Sustainability through $15 Million PERU-Hub

Julio Alegre, Ph.D., a professor at UNALM and the Peruvian coordinator of the soils and crops team demonstrates a soil analysis kit.
Julio Alegre, Ph.D., a professor at UNALM and the Peruvian coordinator of the soils and crops team, demonstrates a soil analysis kit.

The University of Oklahoma recently signed a multi-institutional contract with the United States Agency for International Development that will dedicate $15 million toward the creation of the Peru Extension and Research Utilization, or PERU-Hub, to support sustainable agricultural, economic and social improvement in the San Martin region of the Peruvian jungle. Researchers from OU will receive nearly $1.5 million to support the project, coordinated through the university’s Institute for Resilient Environmental and Energy Systems.

The overall project is led by Peru’s Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina, with additional partners including Utah State University, Purdue University and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, as well as 10 regional and national government bodies, Peruvian universities, and food and agricultural companies, both foreign and domestic.

Director of PERU-Hub Hugo Villachica, Ph.D., said the PERU-Hub consortium of partners will address a range of issues during the five-year project. Farmers in the Amazon region have limited access to agricultural innovation and new markets, as well as scarce opportunities for women and indigenous communities. They also lack access to reliable, actionable information like real-time weather reports and soil quality and land use suitability maps, all of which impact their ability to adapt to regional stresses like climate change, severe weather, legacy land degradation and socioeconomic pressures.

“PERU-Hub will seek to train farmers, women and indigenous communities in the use of improved technologies in current and new crops, in food transformation, access to markets and in marketing, improving agricultural productivity and profitability with sustainable management of resources,” Villachica said.

“There is abundant knowledge in the Peruvian universities like UNALM, as with our international partners at the University of Oklahoma, Utah State University and Purdue University, but what we need is for that knowledge to be available to the farmer,” he added. “We are not trying to necessarily discover new things in PERU-Hub; what we want is to support and continue what has already been done, and we will see more profitable options for the farmer than what already exists.”

Researchers with the University of Oklahoma and the Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina comprising PERU-Hub's soil and crop team met with local farmers to demonstrate the soil health monitoring program during a kick-off event in Tarapoto, Peru May 3-6, 2022.

The OU aspect of this project is codirected by Brad Illston, a meteorologist and senior research scientist at the Oklahoma Mesonet and Oklahoma Climatological Survey, and Tim Filley, a professor of geography and environmental sustainability and the director of IREES. The OU team also includes the director of OU’s Data Institute for Societal Challenges, David Ebert, professors of geography and environmental sustainability Jennifer Koch and Kirsten de Beurs, and Victor Maqque, the operations manager for the Latin American Sustainability Initiative of IREES.

Together the OU team will create an integrated soil-crop-weather monitoring network supported by real-time weather and soil data, citizen science-driven soil analysis, advanced remote sensing, and digital mapping and visual analytics.

“Accurate soil data and monitoring, as well as weather monitoring networks, also called mesonets, are essential for increased farm productivity and livelihood,” Illston said. “The National Weather Center and the Oklahoma Climatological Survey at OU provide extensive experience in creating and maintaining the Oklahoma Mesonet that will be essential to establishing a weather and climate mesonet in Peru.”

This effort complements OU’s current sustainability work with other universities in Peru – efforts that are coordinated through IREES’ Latin American Sustainability Initiative.

“The PERU-Hub program will enhance OU’s leadership in global sustainability work, giving us new insights into how to change lives and make direct, positive impacts, while building local expertise to support the vitality of the San Martin region of Peru,” Filley said.

“IREES was created to support convergent research and outreach efforts like this,” he added. “We are addressing inter-related socio-economic and environmental issues that play out globally and by strengthening our collaborations in Peru and Latin America more broadly. We are making a difference to the sustainability and prosperity of the region with positive impacts that ripple across the Western Hemisphere.”

The project launched with a kick-off event on May 3-6 in Tarapoto, Peru. At the meeting, OU researchers worked with partner institutions and local stakeholders to demonstrate technological platforms that will be adopted, plan upcoming field campaigns and evaluate the facilities to be used for participatory training. More information about this event is available via the USAID website. Please visit for updates on the project and related efforts through the Latin American Sustainability Initiative at the University of Oklahoma.