Studentenverhaal

Soil research in Ecuador

“During my Bachelor’s programme, I spent four months doing work placement in Guayaquil, Ecuador. There, I worked for an agricultural consultancy, Alia2, which was founded by a Dutch woman who had lived and worked in Latin America for years. I found the work placement to be incredibly educational and inspiring: it confirmed that I had chosen the right study programme.”

It was fun and educational to talk with people working in the field

“Alia2 advises on production, fertilisation, irrigation, and drainage. Soil maps are also made of (new) agricultural areas with a recommendation as to which crops would best to cultivate there. These are typically banana, mango, and other fruit as well as cacao, palm oil, sugar cane, and occasionally rice.

I spent the first two months of my stay out in the field. This was physically taxing work—digging holes for soil samples under the hot sun at 35 degrees Celsius. However, it was also fun and educational to speak—in Spanish—with the people working in the field. I was also allowed to attend meetings with the farmers. In addition to that, I worked for a week in the lab where soil and leaf samples are analysed, data that is used to do things such as create a fertilisation plan.”

 

Individual research

“During the third month of my intenship, it was time for my own study! For my Bachelor’s thesis, I looked into the effect of cover crops on the physical soil properties on banana plantations. I made columns to measure the infiltration and took soil samples to determine the ground porosity. I did this at two farms where I was allowed to drive about on my own, which was a big responsibility and very educational. At the end, I measured what cover crops does to the soil. The conclusion was that cover crops are very good for the physical properties of the soil.”

 

Travelling

“During and at the end of my stay abroad, I travelled around to see more of the country. I went to the mountains, the Amazon, and the coast. I lived with an Ecuadorian host family: a single mother with three daughters, who owned a restaurant. By living there, I experienced what it is like to live in an entirely different culture, in a small village, and with a poor family. I also learned a lot of Spanish and ate plenty of delicious food! The contrast between that village and the luxury villa district in Guayaquil where my supervisor lived was huge, but I think that it is good to see both sides.

 

Technical

“All in all, I am super happy with my internship and everything that I learned. I did research that was somewhat more technical using a lot of data in Excel. I quite liked that, because I was able to go into more concrete detail with my research, but I still find the ‘social’ side of things to be very interesting. Who knows what’s in store for my Master’s thesis?”

 

Ilsa Philips, Master’s student