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ASU students help Himalayan farmers support their farms beyond the monsoon.
July 14, 2017

Solar-powered system helps provide water beyond the annual rainy season

In the Hindu Kush Himalaya region, an area that extends 3,500 kilometers across eight nations including Nepal and India, approximately 210 million smallholder farmers engage in a practice known as rain-fed agriculture. However, 80 percent of the annual rainfall in the area occurs during the annual four-month monsoon, so costly infrastructure is required to transport water from distant sources during the rest of the year.

This summer, a group of 11 Arizona State University sustainability and engineering students enrolled in a study abroad course organized through the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives that implemented solutions-based projects to help local farmers support their farms year-round instead of having to migrate to lowlands or to other countries as seasonal laborers. The program was coordinated through ASU's Study Abroad Office. The ASU students were partners with five students from the Tribhuvan University Institute of Engineering in Kathmandu. 

The course, Grassroots Innovation for Sustainable Development, was developed through GlobalResolve. The student workers, who traveled to a community in the buffer zone around Nepal’s Chitwan National Park, developed hardware during the spring semester and then deployed it while they were onsite in June.

“This class cooperates with local farmers to combine existing irrigation and solar technologies to provide a refreshing shortcut for the region’s food and energy challenges,” said Netra Chhetri, associate professor and senior sustainability scientist at ASU. “With assured water supply, these farmers can plan their crops better and grow offseason vegetables that fetch four times more value than cereals, which are the current crops being harvested.”

To address the irrigation challenge, the class integrated a solar-powered lift irrigation system in the community of Kuleni. Due to declining costs of producing solar panels and solar integrator pumps, solar lift irrigation has the capacity to double the productivity and income of more than 25 smallholder farmers. A 10-kilowatt solar array that pumps approximately 7,100 cubic feet of groundwater per day from a 158-foot-deep aquifer has the potential to irrigate about 50 acres of land throughout the year.

Support for the installation, including $20,000 in material costs, was provided by the Kuleni community and a local private company, Sunbridge Solar Nepal. A Nepalese NGO, Local Initiatives for Biodiversity Research and Development, helped to identify the community.

Using a cellphone link and antenna, the system operation is monitored remotely from Kathmandu by Sunbridge Solar so they can identify problems and call local technicians for repairs without the difficult and costly commute from Kathmandu. Sunbridge also provided maintenance training to the farmers.

“Over the decade of experience that I have working in agriculture and rural development in this region, I have learned two things: Smallholder farmers have the ability to feed themselves but they cannot do it alone, and that technological and social innovation customized to location-specific needs of smallholder farmers can be part of the solution to lift people out of poverty, empower communities and ultimately contribute to regional geopolitical stabilization,” Chhetri said.

This program is one of more than 250 offered in more than 65 different countries around the world through the ASU Study Abroad Office. Students can participate in programs as short as a week, as long as a year and nearly anything in between to earn academic credit. For more information about study abroad programs, visit the Study Abroad Office website: https://mystudyabroad.asu.edu/

Top photo courtesy of ASU/Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives/GlobalResolve

Jason Franz

Senior manager, Marketing and Communications , Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives

480-727-4072

 
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Is a biological driver behind our need for self-fulfillment?

ASU study challenges traditional assumptions about self-actualization.
July 14, 2017

ASU study asks what it means for humans to realize their full potential; oftentimes it can be tied to passing genes to next generation

As human beings, what drives us to higher levels of existence? Once we have satisfied the basics — food, shelter, a mate, children — then what? For many it’s the idea of self-actualization, or realizing our full potential.

But what does self-actualization look like? How do we know when we are doing it? When are we trying to realize our highest potential? Self-actualization is a popular idea — in psychology, business, education and the multimillion-dollar self-help industry. Everyone, it seems, wants to realize his or her full potential.

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ASU doctoral student Jaimie Arona Krems

“Despite all of this interest in becoming self-actualized, we still didn’t know what people believed it would mean to realize their full potential,” said Jaimie Arona Krems, a doctoral student in social psychology at Arizona State University, and one of the authors of a new series of studies on what people think it means to be self-actualized. “So we asked them.”

That research, “Individual perceptions of self-actualization: What functional motives are linked to fulfilling one’s full potential?” was published in the early online edition of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Krems and her co-authors, ASU professor of psychology Douglas Kenrick and University of Iowa’s Rebecca Neel, a former ASU doctoral student, drew on ideas from evolutionary biology to challenge some traditional assumptions about what it means to be self-actualized.

“The traditional view of self-actualization saw it as somehow ‘above’ baser physiological and social desires — it sits on top of Abraham Maslow’s famous pyramid of needs,” Kenrick said. “In fact, Maslow’s favorite examples of self-actualizing behaviors were going off to play the guitar or write poetry for your own satisfaction.”

“But if you take an evolutionary perspective on human behavior, it seems unlikely that our ancestors would have evolved to solve all the problems of survival, making friends, gaining status and winning mates, just to go off and entertain themselves,” he added.

From an evolutionary perspective, developing one’s full potential — by becoming an expert musician, scientist or philosopher — might translate into social benefits, such as winning respect and affection from other members of the group, and even winning the attention of potential mates.

So the research team recruited college students and other adults, and asked them what they would be doing if they were realizing their full potential right now. They surveyed more than 1,200 people and had them rate the extent to which their answers reflected several fundamental and evolutionarily relevant social motives (finding friends, seeking status, caring for kin). One of the predictions that the team made was that most people would link pursuing self-actualization to pursuing status (getting all A’s in school, being famous in their fields of endeavor).

Indeed, people do link self-actualization to achieving status and esteem, a motivation that can and often does translate into “fitness,” or the success of passing genes to future generations. The importance of status was unique to self-actualization and did not apply to other forms of self-fulfillment.

When people thought about achieving meaning in life (what psychologists call eudaimonic well-being) and global life satisfaction (subjective well-being), they emphasized spending time with friends and family; when they thought about pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain (hedonic well-being), they placed relatively more emphasis on finding new romantic/sexual partners and staying safe from physical harm.

“Although pursuing status and pursuing self-actualization might feel different,” Krems said, “these pursuits might be rooted in a common motivational system, one that pushes us to go after those biological and social rewards that, in our ancestral past, would have made it more likely that our genes appeared in subsequent generations.”

The team was also able to provide a scientific explanation for what Maslow had long ago mentioned — that different activities lead to self-actualization for different people. In line with modern ideas from evolutionary biology, a person’s life-history features (sex, age, relationship status, parenting status) influenced the goals he or she linked to self-actualization — and in sensible, potentially functional ways. For example, single people emphasized that finding new romantic partners would be a part of their self-actualization, whereas partnered people emphasized that maintaining their existing romantic relationships would be a part of their self-actualization. And parents — especially when they had very young children — emphasized that caring for those children would be a major part of their self-actualization.

By finding mates, keeping mates and caring for children, people might feel self-actualized, and they might also be furthering exactly those biologically relevant outcomes that lead to getting their genes into next generations.

“So, the desire for self-actualization isn’t ‘above’ biological and social needs; people’s drive to achieve their own highest potential is all about achieving critically important social goals,” Kenrick concluded.

Or as Krems explained: “For real people, pursuing self-actualization might further biologically relevant goals.”

Associate Director , Media Relations & Strategic Communications

480-965-4823