CASNR professors on front lines in boosting Ethiopia development agents
By: Hannah Harken
Earlier this year two professors with Texas Tech University's Department of Agricultural Education & Communications travelled to Ethiopia to participate in an agriculture-based project in partnership with Catholic Relief Services.
The two-week effort, part of the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer program, was aimed at linking U.S. volunteers to third-world countries in order to improve their agriculture education. The project stressed finding ways to better serve Ethiopian farmers through extension. That, in this case, meant improved career development for what the Ethiopians call 'development agents.'
In simple terms, a development agent is similar to agricultural extension agents here in the United States. The Ethiopian agents often work at farm training centers, where they work directly with area producers. But there's a big problem. Despite having more than 48,000 development agents scattered across Ethiopia, the turnover rate is near 80 percent.
That startling high turnover is one of the factors that drew David Lawver and Matt Baker, both professors with Tech's Department of Agricultural Education & Communications, to the east African nation of some 102 million.
Their focus was on helping the Ethiopian agriculture industry become "more resilient, more effective, more efficient," said Lawver, a noted agricultural educator and Fulbright Grant award winner.
During their time in Ethiopia, Lawver and Baker met with administrators and faculty from five institutions that graduate the bulk of the nation's development agents. They got a first-hand look at how students and graduates were being prepared for their future jobs in the field.
The long-term goal is to build a foundation for these institutes to provide support for the development agents and increase their effectiveness while building a strong leadership capacity.
The effort not only aids the Ethiopians, it's beneficial for the faculty and students of Tech's College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources. "Students benefit because we're able to give them a better understanding of agricultural communications, extension, and education in the global world in which they will work upon graduation," Baker said.
It also provides CASNR with links with Catholic Relief Services in Ethiopia if a professor or student has an interest in volunteering. Along with volunteer opportunities, CASNR graduates and West Texas producers potentially have the opportunity to work in Ethiopian industries by providing chemical, fertilizer or irrigation services (to name a few). Also, it provides a profile of Texas Tech and CASNR for potential Ethiopian graduate students.
Both Lawver and Baker encourage CASNR faculty, students, and graduates to take a look at the work of Catholic Relief Services. There's a wide range of opportunities available from bee keeping to specialty grape production.
"We'd be happy to talk to anyone in CASNR who may be interested in these opportunities," Lawver said.
CONTACT: David Lawver, Professor, Department of Agricultural Education & Communications, Texas Tech University at (806) 834-8923 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Matt Baker, Professor, Department of Agricultural Education & Communications, Texas Tech University at (806) 834-6358 or email@example.com
0926NM17 / PHOTO: CASNR's Matt Baker (second from left) and David Lawver (far right) meet with agronomy faculty on a demonstration farm tour near the campus of Wolkite University in Ethiopia
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