Hoping to Make a Difference in the Colombian Economy

Miguel Bravo Escobar, an ambitious agriculturalist and researcher, is planning for a career that will allow travel between his home country of Colombia and the U.S., while being involved in agricultural and laboratory development.

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UH Hilo agriculture student Miguel Bravo Escobar stands in a pineapple field in Costa Rica during an internship focusing on banana and pineapple production and exporting. Courtesy photos.
Miguel Bravo Escobar
Miguel Bravo Escobar

Miguel Bravo Escobar is an international exchange student at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo majoring in tropical horticulture at the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management. Originally from Medellin, Colombia, Escobar is a third-generation commercial farmer in a country that has been affected by civil war for the past 60 years.

When asked what the biggest challenge has been for him coming to the U.S., Escobar says, “I can’t say that living (here) has been a challenge at all, it’s the complete opposite, a reward. I don’t have to worry about situations that can threaten my life that are very common in the rural areas of Colombia, like armed factions of guerrillas and paramilitaries.”

However, if it weren’t for life threatening situations, Escobar might not be here. He decided to pursue his higher education after a near death experience.

Escobar explains, “There was an accident in a motorcycle while I was traveling through large cattle fields. I was two inches away from cutting my jugular vein with barbed wire.” After the accident, he drove back to his farm but had lost so much blood that when he arrived at his house, he passed out. He awoke to find that his family, being four hours away from the nearest hospital, had saved his life by super-gluing his wounds closed.

After surviving this incident, Escobar decided he had a bigger purpose in life. He says, “I knew that I was going to change many peoples’ lives for the better by influencing those around me with knowledge.”

He decided to travel to the United States to learn about technologies that he says are still very limited in Colombia. Thanks to UH Hilo, and an internship with the agricultural company Monsanto, his dream has become a reality.

Internships

Escobar participated in an internship with the agricultural company Monsanto on Maui last summer. He was afforded an inside view of the latest agricultural technologies and helped grow seed for multiple clients around the world. He feels that this has been an opportunity to be part of the global food security solution.

Jim Mellon, director of UH Hilo’s international student services and intercultural education programs, says Escobar’s supervisor at Monsanto said Escobar was “the best intern ever.”

Escobar interned with Monsanto on Maui last summer.
Escobar interned with Monsanto on Maui last summer. Here he stands in a field of corn.
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Escobar takes data on corn pollen in Monsanto fields on Maui.

One of the experiments he worked on while interning with the multi-national company involved determining optimal field irrigation techniques. He says, “This precision irrigation allowed us to prevent thousands of gallons of irrigation water from going to waste.”

He plans on working with the company on O‘ahu after graduation.

Previously, Escobar interned with Banacol, an international corporation doing production and marketing of agribusiness. The internship took place in Costa Rica where Escobar learned about banana and pineapple production and exporting (see photo at top of story).

Service and research

Escobar is also involved with the Agriculture Club at UH Hilo and serves as its vice president. The club organizes different community service projects, such as taro patch cleanups in Waipio Valley. They raise food at the school farm and sell it to gain funding for Senior Award Night as well as provide a majority of the food needed for a banquet held every semester at the school farm for graduates of the agriculture college and their families.

Escobar at event standing at table with large computer screen in background. In the far background are people milling around at displays.
Above, Escobar represents UH Hilo College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management at the Taste of the Hawaiian Range event in Kona, Oct. 2015.

Escobar currently is working with anthurium flowers and the accumulation of delphinidin, a primary pigment present in flowers. He hopes to change up the metabolic process of anthuriums so they are able to accumulate delphinidin, which would most likely produce a blue flower that currently doesn’t exist.

He plans to pursue a master’s degree at UH Mānoa through the tropical plant and soil sciences program before continuing on to acquire a doctorate in plant pathology.

As his ultimate goal, Escobar wishes to have a job that will allow travel between Colombia and the U.S., while being involved in the field of agricultural and laboratory development. He wants to help restore Colombia’s economy and expand its potential for growth.

“History has supporting evidence that countries after civil wars have the greatest economic growth and this is where I want to help,” he says. “We can create faster more effective agricultural solutions as well as be readily available to assist the development of the country when the civil war ends.”

He believes that by achieving a higher education he will be able to help make new scientific discoveries and help change millions of lives for the better, achieving global food security and sustainability for whole communities.

Originally Published at UH Hilo Stories