USAID’s Global Food Security Program names two CFAES graduate students Borlaug Fellows

Jan. 16, 2014

Capacity building doesn’t occur spontaneously. Nor is it achieved through individuals and organizations acting independently. Two Ohio State graduate students in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) exemplified these notions with their recent selection as U.S. Borlaug Fellows through USAID’s Global Food Security Program. Patrick Bell, a Ph.D student in the School of Environment and Natural Resources, and Anna Testen, Ph.D student in the Department of Plant Pathology, were each awarded a graduate research grant on December 23, 2013 to fund research the students have been involved in through ongoing projects with other International Agricultural Research Centers (IARC) or National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS).

The Global Food Security Program is an initiative that seeks to foster leadership and scientific expertise among U.S. graduate students to effectively study and promote sustainable food systems in developing countries.

Bell, who interned in the summer of 2013 at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Tanzania, will continue his research on sustainable intensification for improving soil quality in Tanzania. His research mission to Tanzania last year was supported by CFAES’ Office of International Programs in Agriculture (IPA), who currently administers a five year, USAID-funded food security initiative named iAGRI at SUA. Bell’s faculty advisor, Dr. Rattan Lal, Professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources and Director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at Ohio State, has also participated in the iAGRI project. The integration of Bell’s research into the existing organization of the iAGRI project provided an ideal opportunity for both the College of Food Agriculture and Environmental Sciences and SUA to mutually build their capacities.

“Through these arrangements, American graduate students are gaining valuable exposure to international research, while at the same time collaborating with Tanzanian scientists to develop technical capacity that builds long term sustainability, thereby enhancing food security,” says Dr. Mark Erbaugh, Director of the Office of International Programs in Agriculture.

Testen, a student under the advisement of Dr. Sally Miller, Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, not only conducts research in the Vegetable Pathology Laboratory at Ohio State, but has worked with the iAGRI project in Tanzania as well. She traveled to Tanzania in August, 2013 to conduct a survey of tomato diseases in the region and to work with local farmers in developing soil quality indicators. With Dr. Miller serving as lead PI of the International Plant Diagnostics Network (IPDN) – a global project within the USAID funded, Integrated Pest Management Collaborative Research Support Program (IPM-CRSP) – Testen has studied plant diseases that pose critical threats to vegetable crops in developing countries, providing her with the opportunity to be involved in the type of international collaborative research that the Global Food Security Program seeks to foster.
Dr. Erbaugh emphasized that these awards are both a means and an end for building sustainable international agricultural research networks. “These institutional relationships are not shaped overnight, but often result from many years of researchers working collaboratively on different projects at various IARC’s and NARS”.

He said that IPA is proud to contribute to this exchange of knowledge through its own iAGRI program, as well as through a number of other international research and training programs funded by USAID and other organizations. 

As recipients of the Global Food Security Program’s Borlaug Fellowship, Bell and Testen will undoubtedly further CFAES’ effort to internationalize its research, and ultimately to improve agriculture worldwide.

Authored by Beau Ingle,