Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences will partner with Senegal’s Université Gaston Berger (UGB) to build up that West African nation’s agricultural research and outreach capabilities, thanks to a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Higher Education for Development (HED).
The project resulted from two highly competitive grant selection processes of the Africa-U.S. Higher Education Initiative — a collaborative effort started in 2007 by a number of higher education associations and other organizations and led by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities to advocate for increased engagement in African higher education development.
Last year, Ohio State successfully competed for a $50,000 planning grant (there were 20 recipients out of 300 applicants nationwide). In phase II of the initiative, the Ohio State-UGB partnership was one of 11 projects chosen out of 33 applications nationally. The $1.1 million award provides support for two years, with the possibility of an additional three-year renewal.
“The partners’ expertise and drive have been proven through success in a highly competitive review and selection process,” said HED Executive Director Tully Cornick. “I am encouraged to see today’s plans being transformed into sustainable solutions through applied research, higher education opportunities and community involvement. These Africa-led partnerships have seized an opportunity for change and reflect a deep level of understanding shaped by the contributions of the African institution partners.”
According to the granting agencies, the 11 projects seek to “maximize the resources of U.S. institutions while placing African universities in the lead to capitalize on their on-the-ground knowledge, proximity to the challenges, and build their own capacity to better address these challenges.”
Ohio State will work with the newly created agricultural science program at UGB, training its 17-member faculty on research and outreach activities based on the U.S. land-grant model. Ultimately, UGB will establish an experiment station and outreach network similar to the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and OSU Extension, respectively.
“We’ve had a relationship with UGB for the past few years, traveling there to deliver lectures and helping them set up their agricultural program,” said principal investigator and project co-director Richard Dick, a professor of soil microbial ecology in the School of Environment and Natural Resources who has more than a decade of experience working in Senegal. “This grant will allow us to formalize and actively collaborate with UGB in the formation of new degree programs and a new agricultural research and extension center.”
Specifically, the Ohio State-UGB project calls for the creation of an agro-ecology program for sustainable food production, addressing the severe environmental degradation in the fragile African Sahel region and developing the emerging irrigated fruit and vegetable export industry in northern Senegal. This program will involve the development of comprehensive associate and bachelor degrees and use of e-education technologies.
“We expect to have all 17 UGB faculty come to OSU to work with our faculty, to receive training and develop curriculum,” Dick explained. “Also, OSU faculty will go to Senegal to offer short courses on the land-grant model and professional faculty development. Our goal is to assist them develop one of the premier agricultural programs for Africa, so that they will in turn improve Senegal’s ability to produce food, enhance people’s livelihoods, and protect the region’s ecosystems.”
The project will also enable participating Ohio State faculty to create new opportunities for research and Extension collaborations in West Africa.
Dick added that developing Africa’s food-production capabilities in an environmentally sustainable manner is crucial to ensuring the continent’s food security, economic development and political stability. “Sixty percent of people in Africa depend on agriculture,” he pointed out.
By Clint Schroeder, Ohio State University Extension Educator Landowners or producers with a Power of …