Norman E. Borlaug was a household name in America for many years. Borlaug, of course, was the famed agronomist, humanitarian and Nobel laureate, known as "The Father of the Green Revolution." He stood tall above many of Iowa's greatest native sons.
His death resulted in ideas to honor him and his prodigious works. One is the Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program, sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture.
The fellowship promotes food security around the world and economic growth, by providing research and training opportunities for scientists and policymakers from developing and middle-income countries. Since its inception in 2004, approximately 700 fellows from 64 nations have participated.
What does the Borlaug fellowship really accomplish out in the real world? Afghanistan is certainly real world for Americans these days as we wind down the longest war in our nation's history, in what most would describe as a godforsaken place. Eighty percent of the population is involved in farming, herding or both. In fact, agriculture is the main driver of the Afghan economy.
But, with only 12 percent of the nation's land arable, less than 6 percent is under cultivation. Since 2003, the U.S. government has worked with Afghans in ways that are far afield from the wages of war, and the Borlaug Fellowship has been very helpful.
The Borlaug program is tasked with helping developing countries strengthen sustainable agricultural practices. It provides scientific training and collaborative research opportunities for visiting researchers, policymakers and university faculty. Since 2006, 28 Afghans have participated in the Borlaug program.
The Borlaug Fellowship Program has helped the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service rebuild agricultural markets and improve management of natural resources in Afghanistan. In September, eight Afghan ag officials spent two weeks in the United States to participate in the Borlaug program's executive management training.
They visited the USDA's Peoples Garden in Washington, D.C., where they expressed interest in soybeans, rice and peppers. They then visited Washington State University in Pullman, Wash., where they learned how the U.S. land grant university system conducts research and brings new technologies to ag producers and agribusiness.
The group also visited the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) headquarters in Beltsville, Md., and met with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Baltimore. At Pullman, the officials learned how the land grant university system conducts research and brings new technologies to agriculture. They met with small farmers and learned about extension youth and family programs that are sponsored by land grant universities across the nation.
Interestingly, over the years the Borlaug fellows have been trained in animal health, post-harvest processing, rangeland management and horticulture. And, the work continues. The Borlaug Fellowship is accepting applications for the 2013 Borlaug fellowships. The deadline is Jan. 15, 2013.
Fellows will work one-on-one with a mentor at a U.S. university, research center or government agency, usually for 6-12 weeks. The U.S. mentor will later visit the fellow's home institution to continue the valuable collaboration. That's where Afghanistan will begin to benefit from something besides bullets and rockets.
I'll see ya.