BIFAD meeting at WFP – Dr. Brady Deaton – Agriculture in higher education

The Board on International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) was created by the Title 12 amendment to the US Foreign Assistance Act in 1975 in legislation sponsored by Representative Paul Findley (R-ILL) and Senator Hubert Humphrey (D-Minn). The purpose of the action was to create an advisory board for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) that would insure that the work of US Universities, particularly the Land Grant Universities, would be incorporated into USAID programs and thereby flow into the implementation of technical assistance programs abroad.

The Board is composed of seven people appointed by the US President, at least four of whom represent higher education. The others are drawn from business and NGO groups.

President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Brady Deaton of the University of Missouri as Chair in 2011 and reappointed him as Chair in 2012 to a four year term. Other Board members are Professor Catherine Bertini of Syracuse University; Dr. Waded Cruzado, President of Montana State University; Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, Professor at Purdue University; Dr. Harold Martin, President of North Carolina A&T University; and Marty McVey, private businessman of Houston, Texas. There is one open position on the Board awaiting appointment by President Obama.

At the recent Board meeting in Des Moines, Chair Deaton reminded the Board of its commitment to insuring that the very best science and educational methods are instilled in USAID work through its missions abroad. The Board works closely with USAID Administrator, Dr. Raj Shah , USAID staff and mission directors to instill the principles of collaboration and integration. BIFAD has undertaken two major studies and members of the Board have participated in workshops and forums in several African and Asian countries with universities, mission staff, and with the research and extension efforts underway in those countries. The first of the two studies commissioned by BIFAD resulted in the reorganization of the Collaborative Research Support programs (CRSPs) into Innovation Labs oriented to key thematic areas with the intent of promoting interdisciplinary and multi -disciplinary integration and collaboration. These labs have grown in number (from 10-24) and experienced renewed vigor since the reorganization.

The second study addressed the need for strengthening Human and Institutional Capacity Development (HICD) in US university collaboration with counterpart universities in partner countries. The study concluded that USAID should enable new partnership development between US Land Grant Universities and their counterparts to strengthen degree training and specialized training, building on the demonstrated historical strength of past partnerships and strengthened by new information and communications technologies that add quality and scaling potential to address the human and institutional capacity need for human resource development. This examination was discussed further in a global eConsultation carried out over three days, November 18-20, 2014.

Chair Deaton further reflected on the visit of the Board with Representative Findley, the author of Title 12 and creator of BIFAD when Findley met with the Board on the campus of the University of Missouri in May of 2012. Findley called attention to the ideals and founding principles of BIFAD and urged a renewed commitment by the Board to the vision of feeding the hungry of the world. He called on the Board to plant the seeds to avert famine. He expressed a sense of urgency for the critical food situation in the world today. He urged BIFAD to be bold and aggressive in stimulating public concern for world food needs. His enthusiasm infused the Board with excitement and steadfastness for the opportunity it was given by President Obama to support the work of USAID and our partner countries around the world. Deaton confirmed that the Board will remain dedicated to meeting the goals of the founders and achieving the ideals of the American people. He stated the following:

In each of our Board meetings, we seek to openly discuss strategies and identify possibilities for advancing the needs of the hungry and finding new ways to end extreme poverty in the world. We embrace the goals of the Feed the Future Initiative of USAID. Meeting world food needs over the next few decades will require cutting edge basic and applied research, the most creative educational and extension methods and the administrative commitment of governmental bodies at the national and local levels. BIFAD carries that commitment into every aspect of our work with USAID, the private sector and universities at home and abroad.