Back to School for Scholars of the Borlaug Higher Education Agricultural Research and Development Program

August 27, 2013
USAIDUSAID Jefferson Fellow Jean Ristaino (left); Rowshan Akhter, USAID/Bangladesh; Borlaug Scholar Bonita Arifunnahar; and Anne Schneller, MSU, visit labs at the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute.

This fall, ten U.S. universities will welcome 30 scholars from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ghana, Mozambique and Uganda who are pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees in agriculture-related fields. These scholars are the first cohort in Feed the Future’s new Borlaug Higher Education Agricultural Research and Development program, which honors agronomist and Nobel Prize laureate Norman Borlaug by training the next generation of agricultural researchers.

Managed by USAID and implemented by Michigan State University, the program will not only train and educate students from Feed the Future focus countries, but will also develop and strengthen collaboration between U.S. universities and students’ home institutions. After completing their initial studies in the United States, all participating students will travel back to their countries to conduct the requisite research to complete their degrees, and will focus on topics that reflect the priorities of both Feed the Future and their home institutions. In addition, each student’s academic advisor in the United States will travel to the home country during the period of the student’s research to support their efforts and discuss research projects, seminars, or curriculum development with the institutions where the students are based.

“An important part of the project is 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,” says Eric Crawford, professor and co-director of the food security group at Michigan State.

Two additional countries, Mali and Malawi, will send their first round of students to the United States to begin the training program in August 2014. All seven participating countries have agriculture-based priorities such as increasing agricultural productivity, reducing trade and transportation barriers, accelerating rural growth and development, and improving nutrition.

Feed the Future is also taking steps to recruit more women scientists, who have been traditionally underrepresented in agricultural research, into this program; of the first cohort of 30 students, 12 are women.

Ohio State, Washington State, North Carolina State, Michigan State, Florida, Kansas State, Virginia Tech, Illinois, Cornell and Nebraska-Lincoln will all receive students on their campuses this year. The program also partners with the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and the International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement.