COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State University has a long history of cultivating international relationships.
Now the university's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) is expanding that role through the Office of International Programs in Agriculture by forming a three-way partnership designed to bring together university expertise at Ohio State, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in India and Egerton University in Kenya.
The U.S./India/Africa Tri-lateral University Partnership Program for Food Security will combine the strengths of PAU with Ohio State's expertise in agricultural capacity-building to address poverty and hunger issues in Kenya and throughout Africa.
The program is a joint effort of the U.S. government and the government of India. It is run under the auspices of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service.
"We've had a long-term relationship with PAU going back to the 1950s, when Ohio State worked with the U.S. State Department to build institutions of higher agricultural education in the north of India, including PAU," said Mark Erbaugh, director of Ohio State's Office of International Programs in Agriculture.
"PAU was brought into existence with fundamental technical support from The Ohio State University," Erbaugh said. "We have a very strong long-term relationship with them. In fact, their guest house is named after a former assistant dean of ours, Scottie (T.S.) Sutton."
To help celebrate PAU's 50th anniversary, Erbaugh visited the university in November along with Dave Hansen, former director of International Programs in Agriculture; and with CFAES faculty members Rattan Lal and Parwinder Grewal, who are both originally from India.
Over the years, Ohio State has also worked with Egerton University in Kenya on various projects.
"When we heard about this program, I made a phone call to a college alum who's now at Egerton and to the dean of Egerton’s Faculty of Agriculture to solicit their interests, and Dave Hansen contacted our friends at PAU, and then we were able to move forward on writing a winning proposal," Erbaugh said. "But we couldn't have done it without having strong relationships and contacts with these institutions in the first place."
In May, at the start of the tri-lateral partnership, Erbaugh, Hansen and USDA representatives met at PAU with Alexander Kahi, dean of Egerton's Faculty of Agriculture, so Kahi could visit the campus and meet with its leaders and faculty members. Another meeting took place in Kenya in August to do strategic planning for the project.
"Our role is really to bring these people together," Erbaugh said. "PAU has strong programs in crop breeding, soil and water management, and farmer outreach, and offers tremendous potential to improve food security in Africa. The partnership will also benefit PAU by allowing it to test various models for improving food systems and raise its scientific visibility on an international level."
The tri-lateral project was one of just two funded by the U.S. government. The other is a partnership between Michigan State University, Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in India, and the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources in Malawi.