Honduran agriculture university seeks greater ties with LSU AgCenter

Olivia McClure, Black, Liz


Oscar Redondo, rector of Honduras’ Universidad Nacional de Agricultura (UNA), left, speaks during a March 10 event hosted by LSU AgCenter International Programs as Katrina Spillane, coordinator of international programs at UNA, looks on. UNA is trying to increase international collaboration with universities to improve its education programs for both students and farmers. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter


Oscar Redondo, rector of Honduras’ Universidad Nacional de Agricultura (UNA), left, presents a gift of Honduran coffee to Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture and dean of the College of Agriculture. Coffee is one of Honduras’ top exports. UNA is hoping to work more with the LSU AgCenter to improve education programs, increase farm productivity and help the country export more agricultural products. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

(03/11/16) BATON ROUGE, La. – An agriculture university in Honduras is hoping to strengthen its ties with land-grant universities in the U.S., including the LSU AgCenter, to improve its education programs and increase farm productivity.

Representatives from the Universidad Nacional de Agricultura (UNA) in Catacamas, Honduras, are visiting several American universities this week to learn about their agriculture programs and to find ways to increase international collaboration. The AgCenter and UNA are currently working on a joint proposal seeking funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development to enhance education programs that would help improve Honduras’ international trade, said David Picha, director of AgCenter International Programs.

Speaking at a March 10 event hosted by International Programs, UNA Rector Oscar Redondo said agriculture is one of the most important industries in Honduras, but the country is struggling because farmers use inefficient methods that result in low productivity.

“We import almost double as what we export, so there is a very complicated balance there,” he said. “We have a great potential, but we have a great challenge as well.”

Top Honduran exports include coffee, bananas and palm oil. The country, one of the poorest in Central America, imports much of its food, fuel and electronics.

Redondo is optimistic that new technologies will help farmers become more efficient, but educating them is often a challenge. UNA is trying to address their needs in unique ways, he said. For example, the university operates a radio station that broadcasts information about farming techniques.

The university has also grown considerably in recent years as it tries to train future leaders of the country’s agriculture industry.

Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture and dean of the College of Agriculture, recalled visiting the UNA campus about 15 years ago.

“It was really small then,” he said. “They’ve gone from a couple hundred students to over 5,000 and are really growing. Now they’ve got five majors and are looking to add another five. There is a tremendous need in Honduras for human capital that this university will be building, and we hope our relationship with them can add to that.”

UNA currently offers undergraduate degree programs in agronomy, natural resources and environment, food and nutrition, veterinary medicine and farm management, plus two master’s degree programs. Students spend about half their time in the classroom and the other half doing fieldwork.

One priority the university has maintained amid its growth is greater inclusion of minorities, Redondo said. It has implemented a social inclusion program to extend higher education opportunities to those who traditionally would not be able to attend a university, such as the very poor, indigenous groups and women.

Katrina Spillane, coordinator of international programs at UNA, said the university is stepping up efforts to teach students English so they can pursue more international exchange opportunities. More than 100 UNA students and faculty members have visited LSU on short trips since 2012, she said. Some students have completed longer visiting scholar programs, and a few have gone on to enroll at LSU as graduate students.

3/11/2016 7:49:50 PM
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