EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University will use a $7.3 million federal grant to cultivate the next generation of agricultural scientists in Africa and Asia, in hopes of improving food security and nutrition there.
The new Borlaug Higher Education Agricultural Research and Development program, named after Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug, is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Food Security. Part of Feed the Future, the government’s global hunger and food security initiative, the program will strengthen agricultural research institutions and support long-term training of agricultural researchers at the master’s- and doctoral-degree levels.
“MSU has 50-plus years of engagement in Africa, and we’re currently managing several M.S. and Ph.D. training programs whose objectives and program design are similar to those of this initiative,” said Eric Crawford, professor of agricultural, food and resource economics. “MSU faculty is well versed in planning, designing and managing training and human capacity-building programs, especially in plant breeding, food science and food security, which are key areas of Feed the Future.”
Crawford, who also serves as co-director of MSU’s Food Security Group, and Frederik Derksen, chairperson of MSU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, housed in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, will lead the effort.
The program will begin in Ghana, Uganda, Mali, Mozambique and Bangladesh with potential to expand to other Feed the Future countries, Crawford said. The five countries have similar priorities: increase agricultural productivity; reduce trade and transportation barriers; develop sound market-based principles for agriculture; accelerate rural growth and development; and improve nutrition.
Starting in fall 2013, the first cohort of students will comprise 30 master’s degree candidates and 10 doctoral degree candidates, Crawford said. Women remain underrepresented in agricultural research, so the MSU-designed program will be gender inclusive.
Educational institutions haven’t yet been chosen, but will be those that focus on research, education and outreach in agriculture, Crawford said. MSU and USAID officials will search for strong local or regional degree programs, but most degrees will be awarded by U.S. universities.
After studying at the colleges and universities, many of the students will return home to research and to write theses with visits from their research mentors.
“An important part of the project will be to help create a network of fellows that links them together across universities and disciplinary areas as the basis for sharing experiences and developing longer-term professional relationships,” Crawford said.
The program was developed by USAID along with the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and the International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement in Mexico.
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