Written by: Borlaug Institute Staff
Ambassador Mark Green, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development visited the Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University on October 16 to hear about their efforts in helping farmers in developing countries become more self-sufficient through efficient food production.
“Universities and research centers like Borlaug are critical to our ability to end hunger in developing countries, great visit today,” Green tweeted right after the meeting.
During Green’s visit, scientists presented work on three projects funded by USAID.
The first project discussed was the Innovation Laboratory for Small-Scale Irrigation. It is a 5-year, $12.5 million program conducted in three countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The project provides farmers with quantitative planning tools that enable them to make the best use of inputs like fertilizer and seed to increase production yields while minimizing costs, such as labor and water.
Farmers are now able to economically irrigate their crops during the dry season, expand the availability of fresh foods and increase their incomes and resilience to droughts because of this USAID project.
“As part of the project, farmers have also gained access to solar and other types of power sources to help efficiently pump water and irrigate their fields,” said Neville Clarke, director of the program.
As it moves to its second phase, the program will seek to engage with private partners, pending continuing support from USAID.
The second USAID project which the Borlaug Institute is working on addressing coffee leaf rust – a hard to stop fungus that attacks and kills coffee trees which has spread across Central and South America devastating production in the coffee growing regions.
This project is managed by the Borlaug Institute’s new Center for Coffee Research and Education. Coffee contributes $225 billion to the U.S. economy annually, which relies heavily on smallholder coffee farmers.
The project is funded by a partnership between USAID and the World Coffee Research, a non-profit foundation with membership consisting of some of the world’s largest coffee roasters, like Keurig Green Mountain and Smucker’s. The project has engaged in 17 new variety trials using plants obtained from several countries around the world in search for those with natural resistance to the fungus. It has also developed educational materials which have been used to train more than 24,000 farmers in 9 countries to help them learn how to best manage their fields to minimize the spread of disease, as well as a seed certification program.
“Leaf rust disease has affected more than half of coffee farming land in Central America, resulting in economic losses of more than $1 billion,” said Leo Lombardini, director of the Center for Coffee Research and Education. “This work is critical for the continued survival of the crop and the economy in that region.”
The third ongoing USAID project is conducted in Ethiopia and led by Joseph Awika, associate professor in the Departments of Soil & Crop Sciences, and Nutrition and Food Sciences. Awika focuses his research on improving sorghum value as a food ingredient in processed foods such as breads and other products.
The specific variety of sorghum being studied has a different structure within the grain which enables it to be almost twice as digestible as traditional sorghum, an important feature in its use for human consumption, as well as feed for animal production. When used for biofuel production, it can reduce the fermentation time by 50 percent
“This variety can be used as a blend with other local more expensive grains, reducing the costs for consumers, a very important concern in developing countries,” Awika said.
“We are very proud of the work being done at the Institute, and greatly value the support we have received from USAID,” said Elsa Murano, Director of the Borlaug Institute.
Since 2013, the Borlaug Institute has received more than $25 million in programmatic funding from the agency, which conducts projects all over the world.