PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University is one of five universities teaming up to rebuild Iraq’s agricultural sector by strengthening extension programs and training at Iraqi universities.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $5.3 million grant to the consortium of universities to develop and provide training programs for Iraqi nationals to enhance the management, production and marketing for small and medium agricultural enterprises. Agriculture is the second largest contributor to the Iraqi national economy and employs one-quarter of the workforce.
The Agricultural Extension Revitalization Project will be headed by Texas A & M University, and will involve WSU, Utah State University, University of California at Davis and New Mexico State University. It will involve five universities in Iraq as well as the University of Jordan, Jordan University of Science and Technology and Hashemite University.
Chris Pannkuk, director of WSU International Programs, said WSU will focus on dryland cropping systems, for wheat, barley, millets and legumes grown in Iraq. “The program will strengthen agricultural extension through training Iraqi university faculty in Jordan,” he added. “We at WSU should be proud that we have so much to offer around the world.”
Bill Pan, chair of the WSU Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, said the project will engage many faculty in the department. “Our faculty will provide the expertise in extension programming that supports dryland cropping systems in wheat management, variety testing, soil fertility and conservation tillage, for example,” he said.
John Winder, associate dean and director of WSU Extension, called the project “an excellent opportunity to help the Iraqis develop a viable and sustainable economy.”
“Iraq has substantial potential for agricultural production,” he added. ”Appropriate technologies will help Iraqis modernize and fully realize the agricultural potential of the region,” he said. Winder, along with Pan, Pannkuk and Mike Barber, director of the WSU Water Resources Center, were involved in initial planning for the WSU component project.
In a news release announcing the grant, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said that the extension system is a great tool for restoring Iraq’s agriculture sector that will contribute to stabilizing the country.
“I’m confident that this group of universities will represent our country very well,” Johanns said. “We can all be proud that our universities have so much to offer around the world.”