Borlaug LEAP Papers

Preface by

Montague Demment

Montague Demment
Principle Investigator, Borlaug LEAP
Emeritus Professor
University of California, Davis
Susan Johnson
Susan Johnson
Program Director, Borlaug LEAP
University of California, Davis

This volume is the product of a commitment of the United States to invest in the youth of developing countries, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, to support and sustain economic and social development. The program emerged from the momentum generated by a lifetime commitment of Dr. Norman Borlaug to address world hunger and poverty through science and people. His work, both in developing the green revolution and promoting the education of young scientists in the agriculture, led to massive reductions in hunger across the world and a sustained advancement in global agriculture. For his lifetime contributions, he was awarded the Noble Peace Prize in 1970.

The Borlaug LEAP program emerged from a keynote speech that Dr. Borlaug presented at an International Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology in Sacramento, California in 2003. Hosted by the USAID and USDA, he challenged the government leaders, from the 117 nations represented, to commit to accelerating the transfer and adaptation of technologies in the developing world. He saw this as a way to feed the projected 10 billion inhabitants of planet earth. He reminded the conference participants that Pakistan and India became self-sufficient in wheat production through education and training after their scientists learned how to double their wheat production. The lesson is that investment in human capital is fundamental to sustained development and food security.

To support this vision, USDA and USAID established the Norman E. Borlaug International Science and Technology Fellowship Program. Two programs were created - a short-term program, funded by USDA-FAS and a long-term program, funded by USAID through a grant to the University of California, Davis. The Borlaug LEAP (Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program) became the long-term program.

In November 2004, representatives of the USAID, USDA, Texas A&M University, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the University of California, Davis met with Dr. Borlaug on the Texas A&M campus to create and design the Norman E. Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program.

During Dr. Borlaug’s career his experiences in the highly productive collaboration between both Land Grant universities and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Consortium (CGIAR Consortium) led him to see that international interactions were essential to “keeping scientists alive and innovative”. He envisioned a long-term program for thesis research fellows, “bright young scientists” working towards a graduate degree. He also saw mentoring and leadership as key components of building the long-term scientific capacity of nations.

The first Borlaug LEAP Fellows were selected in 2006. During the life of the program, fellowships were awarded to 170 students from 27 different countries (97% from sub-Saharan Africa). The program engaged 270 mentors and Borlaug LEAP Fellows completed internships at all 15 CGIARs and over 45 US universities. The majority of the Borlaug LEAP Fellows (85%) were pursuing PhD degrees. The thesis topics range from soil science to human nutrition to agricultural economics.

Borlaug LEAP Fellows have gone on to fulfill Dr. Borlaug’s vision. Most of the fellows have continued to work in agriculture and food security fields. Several fellows have gone on to become well-known leaders in influential institutions that shape the direction of agricultural development today. They have positions at the World Bank, FAO, IFAD, in universities, in labs, fields, and offices throughout the CGIAR system, in large non-governmental organizations, in USAID and its many funded programs, and in many national agricultural research organizations.

Sadly, now the Borlaug LEAP program is coming to a close but the promise of the young scientists who have benefited from the program provides optimism about the future. More is needed if we truly want the sustained development that will make countries independent of foreign assistance, the recently stated objective of USAID. This volume is but a small portion of the overall scientific contribution of the LEAP fellows but an important voice of the emerging youth of Africa to address their challenges in food security and poverty. The Borlaug Fellows all will make their contributions over their hopefully long careers. The impact of the LEAP Fellows will be felt for decades and will cascade through time and generations in significant but diffuse ways in their countries. We will celebrate their achievements now and in the future.

From the beginning, this project was conceived and led by Borlaug LEAP Fellows. The initial call for papers produced 85 submissions. Numerous Fellows have worked tirelessly and contributed to the final product. We wish to credit the student editors who did the initial work of compiling the set of articles for this Borlaug LEAP special issue. These were: Kwevitoukoui “Brad” Hounkpati (lead editor), Bernice Waweru, Assoumane Maiga, Mariam Mtunguja, Dawd Gashu, Mustafa Jibrin, and Senorpe Asem-Hiablie.