December 20, 2004
Joint effort to rebuild Afghanistan's agricultural sector SIUC signs pact with Pakistani university
CARBONDALE, Ill. - - A pact signed on Friday, Dec. 17, by representatives of Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Northwest Frontier Province Agricultural University of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in Peshawar will commit those two institutions along with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to a five-year collaboration aimed at rebuilding Afghanistan's agricultural sector through teaching, research and outreach activities."We're pleased to have this opportunity to renew and enhance our participation in an important international undertaking," said SIUC Chancellor Walter V. Wendler, who signed the Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of the University. SIUC Dean of Agricultural Sciences Gary L. Minish, NFPAU Field Office Director Abdul Qayyun Khan representing NFPAU Vice Chancellor Iqbal Shah, and Oval Myers, a "retired" SIUC professor of plant, soil and agricultural systems with current and longstanding ties to the Pakistani university, also attended the signing ceremony.
"The Memorandum of Understanding serves as a vehicle for cooperating in activities and collecting resources to support those activities," Myers said.
"It gives everyone involved more clout when they go to donor agencies." Myers and UIUC counterpart, John W. Santas first began working with Northwest Frontier Province Agricultural University in 1983 as part of a U.S. Agency for International Development project that focused on transforming NFPAU from a small, provincial university into one of regional scope.
In the decade that followed, project team members helped the university bring its curriculum up to date, provide graduate education for scores of faculty members, build new facilities, bring existing research stations into its fold and develop outreach services for farmers.
The project ended in 1994 when the U.S. government withdrew aid from Pakistan, but a new political climate has resulted in increased U.S. interest in that part of the world. The federal development agency is once again funding training projects in South and West Asia.
Myers and Santas renewed their working relationship with NFPAU last year in a limited project funded by USAID, guiding the university in providing the same kind of services it once received with the aim of rebuilding Afghan agriculture.
"The reason we can do this is because of the number of people we have trained here - - they're now carrying the ball," Myers said.
"Without that earlier project, we would not have the relationship we have now."
The new project places Afghan agricultural faculty in master's programs at NFPAU, teams Afghan scientists with Pakistani mentors in both labs and field stations, and offers practical and relevant short courses.
"This agreement will provide important services for the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan," Khan said.
The agreement just signed will make it easier for all the universities to go after funds to pay for faculty and student exchanges, equipment, and logistical needs to develop joint teaching and research initiatives.
"The sources for that kind of aid are limited only by our ability to write proposals and pursue them," Myers said.
SIUC's long-standing commitment to serving others is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.
(CAPTION: International agreement - - A pact signed on Friday, Dec. 17, calls for a five-year collaboration aimed at rebuilding Afghanistan's agricultural sector through teaching, research and outreach activities. Participating in the ceremony were (from left) Gary L. Minish, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences; Abdul Qayyun Khan, field office director for the Northwest Frontier Province Agricultural University of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan; Oval Myers, retired SIUC professor of plant, soil and agricultural systems; and Chancellor Walter V. Wendler.)PHOTO BY RUSSELL BAILEY