Foreign Ag Affairs

Iraqi delegation tour (photo by Steve Williams)An 11-member delegation from Iraq learned how techniques from the century-old American tradition of cooperative extension can help re-establish productive farms in their war-torn nation.

Iraqi Oday Othman Mahmood, chairman of the agricultural Rafedain Foundation, says his group came to Penn State to learn how nongovernmental organizations can help rebuild the nation’s thousands of farmers into a cohesive industry. The U.S. Department of State initiated the visit.

The Iraqi delegation followed visits by teams from the Ukraine, Honduras, Poland, and the Czech Republic—all aimed at learning agriculture to help build democracy.

During a visit sponsored by the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, Ukrainian visitors watched Glen Cauffman, manager of Penn State farm operations and facilities, demonstrate operation of a reactor used in making biofuels—and learned that the process was easier than they expected. Ukrainian visitors also reviewed no-till farming and other biofuel technologies. Visiting through sponsorship of the Open World Leadership Center, they stayed with host families, visited the capitol in Harrisburg, saw local scenic and historic sites, and took part in the United Nations Day Celebration Dinner.

Deanna Behring, director of international programs for the college, said foundations and federally sponsored programs that traditionally have supported democratic institution-building programs are beginning to acknowledge that agriculture is at the heart of building democracy.

“If you have a strong cadre of young agricultural leaders, you have the foundation for democracy,” she said. “Agricultural diplomacy can help with community-development issues in any country, and I expect we will see even more of these types of visits in the future as the U.S. government introduces new policies and programs to address food security and stability.”

The College of Agricultural Sciences seems to be the portal for connecting with the University, says Dean Bruce McPheron, thanks to the universal appeal of food, along with the University’s land-grant mission of turning scientific research into practical knowledge.