No. 1554 18 January 2013

Education challenges in a globalized world

“Four globalizing forces will shape the culture and organization of businesses and nations in the next 50 years – advances in science and technology; global redistribution of knowledge, power and wealth; competing political, cultural and religious ideologies; and sustainability of the physical environment.”

Director General William Dar speaking at the 27th anniversary celebrations of the Benguet State University, Philippines.

At the recent 27th anniversary celebration of the Benguet State University (BSU) in the Philippines, Director General William Dar talked about these forces in the context in which universities will have to deliver educational content and services.

“We have become a global village. We know what is happening on the other side of the earth instantaneously. This has irrevocably changed human experience of space and time. And yet, the information processing capability of the human brain remains more or less constant; so this global force places enormous and immediate stress on people’s ability to manage ever increasing levels of data and information,” he said of advances in science and technology.

On the global redistribution of knowledge, power, and wealth, he explained how economic growth must come from increased productivity of knowledge workers, which creates increasing pressure to do more with less. “Reality is now viewed as a social construct; reality is human-made. Mass media and now social networks have made it very easy to create and globally disseminate new structures of reality,” he said, speaking about competing political, cultural, and religious ideologies.

Dr Dar emphasized that while the goal of a sustainable society is a popular notion difficult to implement, especially when it impacts business and economic growth, alternative environments that do not require the earth’s ecological systems as we currently know them need to be developed.

Universities build up human capital which makes nations and businesses more globally competitive. To come up as winners in this competitive environment, he urged universities to leverage their strategic advantages and play up their strengths; internationalize students, faculty and non-academic personnel; embrace information and communication technology (ICT) in the delivery of instruction, research, administration and related services; foster collaborative skills; and instill excellence in all facets of operations and accomplishments.

Dr Dar commended BSU for remaining relevant to its communities, the country, the region and the world. It was a homecoming of sorts for Dr Dar, who obtained his MS (Agronomy) and BS in Agricultural Education from BSU. He taught at BSU for 11 years and rose from the ranks to become full Professor and Vice President for Research and Extension.

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Negotiating the challenges of climate change

Dr Dar at the Techno demo commercialization plot of chickpea at BSU.

Resilience is the paradigm needed to meet the challenges of climate change,” said Director General William Dar in his message during a consultation-meeting on 10 January as part of BSU’s 27th anniversary celebration. Addressing 40 researchers and staff, mostly from BSU’s Research, Development and Extension (RDE) sector, Dr Dar recommended four research themes for the university’s R&D agenda: adaptation to progressive climate change, adaptation through managing climate risk, pro-poor climate change mitigation, and integration for decision making.

Referring to the university’s RDE strategic plan and Climate Smart Agriculture Center (CSAC) which focuses on chickpea and pigeonpea, Dr Dar stressed the need for “product-oriented research and delivery of public goods anchored on big development issues.” Highlighting ICRISAT’s focus on climate change-ready crops in improving the livelihoods of poor smallholder farmers, Dr Dar challenged BSU to take the same direction.

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USAID officials visit ICRISAT, affirm support to pigeonpea improvement program

Jonathan Shrier (Acting Special Representative, Global Food Security, US Department of State) admires the hybrid pigeonpea crop in ICRISAT’s field.

Stressing the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) key crosscutting focus areas, namely food and nutrition security, climate change, and gender, USAID officials expressed support to ICRISAT’s research for development initiatives during a visit to the headquarters in Patancheru on 16 January.

The delegation’s visit was part of the USAID-funded project “Pigeonpea improvement using molecular breeding” with ICRISAT as the lead institute along with national partners – National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), Acharya N G Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU) and Agricultural Research Station (ARS)-Gulbarga.

“This visit has been a great learning experience about the project. Pigeonpea presents enormous potential in terms of food and nutrition security, and this project is a good example of an international institute and Indian organizations sharing expertise,” said Jonathan Shrier, Acting Special Representative, Global Food Security, US Department of State and head of the delegation. “Part of the interest of the US in working in India is to make use of the tremendous expertise in this country that can help other countries,” he added.

During the discussion, the USAID officials expressed interest on how an individual project satisfies all three USAID key focus areas. Citing the pigeonpea improvement program as an example, which addresses nutrition and climate change issues, the need to tackle gender concerns was also raised.

The group likewise expressed strong interest in India-Africa relations, mentioning that USAID is now building programs for training and sharing of business expertise, from India organizations to Africa.

Other members of the USAID delegation were: Bahiru Duguma, Director, Food Security Office, USAID-India; Scott Save, USDA APHIS Attache, US Embassy, New Delhi, Paul Mueller from the US Consulate, Hyderabad; and a few others.

The delegation met with ICRISAT’s Drs HD Upadhyaya, KB Saxena, Joanna Kane-Potaka and other senior staff members, along with Anuradha Ghanta  from ANGRAU, Hyderabad and PS Dharmaraj from ARS-Gulbarga.

The USAID officials will be visiting the ICRISAT headquarters again on 30 January for the project launch.

USAID officials with ICRISAT senior staff.

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Former Ireland President interacts with Irish Aid recipients

Dr Moses Siambi explains to Hon Mary Robinson the household utilization of groundnuts to enhance nutrition.

Ms Mary Robinson, the first woman president of Ireland (1990-1997) and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), visited the ICRISAT-Lilongwe location on 8 January accompanied by the Ambassador of Ireland in Malawi. The goal of the visit was to have a better understanding of the work that some of the recipients of Irish Aid are undertaking in tackling issues related to food security and nutrition for smallholder farmers as well as the impacts of climate change.

Ms Robinson said that the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice, of which she is President, is committed to a clearer understanding of the impacts of climate change on vulnerable households in the developing world, especially in Africa. She expressed great appreciation of the scientists’ level of commitment to find practical solutions for improved food production by smallholder farmers amid the threat of climate change.

She gave a brief address to a gathering of scientists from three CGIAR centers supported by Irish Aid, representatives of the Seed Services Unit of the Department of Research Services of the Government of Malawi, and the National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (NASFAM). She also viewed exhibit displays by the participating institutions.

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