International Programs

Linda Benedict, Schultz, Bruce, Morgan, Johnny W.  |  3/10/2014 11:44:00 PM

Dorsaf Yahiaoui, a Borlaug Fellow, studied with AgCenter plant scientist Jong Ham. Her research focused on the development of new methods for diagnosis and biological control of fire blight,one of the most destructive diseases of apple and pear trees. (Photo by Johnny Morgan.)

Borlaug Fellow Yen Pham’s interests are in how pesticides and other chemicals used in agriculture can be monitored for safety. She conducted her research in the Department of Agricultural Chemistry with her mentors Mark LeBlanc and Amy Hernandez. (Photo by Johnny Morgan.)

International scientists get training as Borlaug Fellows

For the past three years, the LSU AgCenter International Programs office has been hosting scientists from around the world through the Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program to assist them with research in their countries.

Susan Karimiha, AgCenter coordinator of the Borlaug fellowship program, said the fellowship, which is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pays the expenses for the scientist to come here for training.

Karimiha said in addition to land-grant universities, USDA also works with government agencies and international research centers to implement the program.

The fellowship provides for mentors to work with the visitors during a 12-week stay. "Following the training period, the mentor spends up to 10 days with the scientists when they return home," she said.

Since 2011, 14 scientists from 11 countries have come to the AgCenter to work on various projects. "Normally they are interested in doing research on an agricultural challenge in their home country," she said.

The first grant in 2011 was to host an Indonesian scientist. "We did really well with that project. So well, that we’ve been hosting international scientists every year since through this program," Karimiha said.

"Each participant applies for the program through the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service. Fellows from developing and middle-income countries are eligible to participate in the fellowship program," she said.

"The scientists typically have a work plan for a project that they want to work on in their country but want collaborators or additional training," Karimiha said.

Projects have included solar drying to minimize post-harvest losses of agricultural products, minimizing the effects of agriculture on climate change and ways to help combat major plant diseases.

Karimiha believes improving people’s access to food is an immediate benefit of the research and in the long term helps improve food security.

Currently, a Borlaug Fellow, Usman Ahmad from Bogor Agricultural University in Indonesia, is working on postharvest grain technology with Subramaniam Sathivel, an AgCenter food engineer.

The two most recent participants in the program were Dorsaf Yahiaoui, an engineer in plant protection of fruit trees at the Technical Center of Citriculture in Tunisia, and Yen Pham, a researcher and lecturer at the Key Laboratory of Enzyme and Protein Technology, Hanoi University of Science, Vietnam National University.

"The Indonesian scientist who came in 2011 to study sweet potatoes is back at the expense of her country for additional training," Karimiha said. "There also are two scientists from Kosovo who are returning."

Johnny Morgan

Richardson helps Honduran ag school make U.S. connections

Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture and dean of the LSU College of Agriculture, has an additional title as a member of the board of trustees for a Honduran agricultural university.

Richardson said he first learned of the Zamorano Pan American Agricultural School in the late 1980s, when he taught vocational education at Purdue University. At that time, Zamorano was only offering a three-year degree.

Zamorano was founded in 1941 by Samuel Zemurray, a Russian immigrant who made his fortune with a banana importation business that became the United Fruit Co. in New Orleans.

Richardson said LSU offered Zamorano students, who completed their three-year education in Honduras, a chance to come to LSU and enroll in a year of studies that enabled them to get a bachelor’s degree.

After Zamorano began a four-year bachelor’s degree program, LSU provided students with the opportunity to obtain advanced degrees.

A student who completed a master’s degree and went on to obtain a doctorate at LSU graduated in August 2013, Richardson said, and two more graduated with Ph.D. degrees in December 2013.

"The quality of the students is what I’m impressed with most," Richardson said. "The faculty here at LSU appreciate these students. They work hard from daylight to dusk."

He said he has been present when students learn they have been selected to attend LSU, and the experience is profound. "They get rather emotional. There are some kids who come out of extraordinarily poor conditions."

About a third of the students are Hondurans with the rest from Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Panama.

Richardson said he was appointed to the university’s Board of Trustees in November 2013 after Zamorano students petitioned the administration for his selection. "I was quite honored that my appointment came from the efforts of the students."

Richardson has been on the Zamorano campus several times. He said students grow the university’s food, and it is processed in a state-of-the-art canning facility.

Bruce Schultz

(These articles were published in the 2014 winter issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)

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