Twelve Iraqi trainees arrived at Washington State University for a six week-long workshop designed to provide technical assistance to improve the capacity of Iraq’s agricultural sector.
WSU is participating in the Iraq Agricultural Extension Revitalization program, a consortium of five universities funded by a $5.3 million USDA grant. The program began in 2007 and runs through 2009. WSU is specifically supplying the Iraqis with training in dryland agriculture, a specialty in which WSU is a recognized world leader.
During the past two years, the consortium brought training to the Iraqis in Syria, Jordan and Egypt. This year, and for the first time, the Iraqis were able to come to the U.S. for six weeks of training.
The Iraqis are primarily extension educators working in the Ministry of Agriculture, while others are faculty members at agricultural universities. During their time in Washington, the Iraqis are attending lectures in classrooms, going on field trips and attending field days, and doing work in labs. Every week has a different theme, for example pest biology and management one week and soil conservation and quality the next.
“We’ve been taking them to farmers’ fields to show them commercial practices as well as research fields,” said Bill Pan, professor in the crop and soils department at WSU.
“We’ve received intensive lectures and we will return with considerable information,” said trainee Luaay Khalaf.
The U.S. consortium designed and implemented a comprehensive agricultural education program for the extension educators of Iraq. The universities in the consortium include the University of California, Davis; New Mexico State University; Texas A & M; Utah State University; and Washington State University.
“Each university brings its own specialty to the project,” said Colleen Taugher, project associate for International Programs Research and Development. “WSU’s theme is dry land agriculture.”
According to Pan, on a broad scale the goal of the project is to show the Iraqis how extension in the US is well integrated with research.
While at WSU, each of the Iraqi trainees will develop a project to be implemented when they get home to Iraq. WSU is working to match trainees with experts in their area of interest. The trainees received computer training and are returning to Iraq with laptops and they will to stay in touch with their mentors via the Internet.
“Beyond dryland agriculture, they have a whole range of other interests,” said Pan. “We’ve been scrambling to modify the program to suit their needs and interests.”
Some of the projects include crop variety testing, vegetable production in hoop houses, seed placement, and cultural and management practices of poplar trees for wood and pulp production and for erosion management.
“We have seen a different life and culture compared to Iraq and we like the difference,” said trainee Mahdi Salih. “We are very far from traffic jams and security check points and we hope that we will transfer this beneficial and useful information to Iraq.”
“I’m really impressed with them,” said Taugher. “They’ve been lovely guests and have been open minded and outgoing.”
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