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India, US expand rural cooperation

india Updated: Oct 21, 2006 02:00 IST
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India and the US are expanding their agricultural science and technology collaboration under a new initiative aimed at reducing rural hunger and poverty, a senior US official said.

The partnership, called the US-India Agricultural Knowledge Initiative (AKI), seeks to increase agricultural production, said Ellen Terpstra, deputy under secretary for farm and foreign agricultural services.

Terpstra, who co-chairs the AKI board of directors with Mangala Rai, secretary of India's Department of Agriculture Research and Education, spoke on October 18 at the World Food Prize Symposium in Iowa, according to an official report.

During its first three years, the programme is slated to focus on improvements in food processing, marketing, biotechnology and water management in India.

It also plans to help universities in India develop community farm extension services delivered through programmes based in agricultural universities, she said.

In addition, the two nations plan to collaborate on building India's trade and "supportive" policy and regulatory capacity, Terpstra said.

In June, the AKI board selected 15 candidates from India to participate in the Norman Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Programme, which brings research scientists and policy-makers from developing nations to US for short-term scientific training.

The purpose of the training programme is to help those specialists gain the knowledge necessary to adopt new farm technologies in their countries.

Specialists also learn how to address obstacles to the adoption of those technologies, such as "ineffectual" policies and regulations, according to USDA.

Each "fellow" is assigned a mentor who will coordinate the individual's training and will visit the fellow's home country after the end of training.

Training venues include US agricultural universities, USDA and other government agencies, private companies, not-for-profit institutions and international agricultural research centres.

The Borlaug fellowship programme is named after the Nobel laureate known as the "father of the Green Revolution", whose developments of high-yielding wheat varieties helped reverse severe food shortages in India and Pakistan in the 1960s, saving millions from starvation.

Terpstra said she hoped the India fellows will "become inspired and return home with the goal of making a difference in the quality, safety and availability of food" in their home country.

The AKI board will also select 12 Cochran Fellowship Programme participants. That programme provides US-based training of three to six weeks. The new Cochran fellows from India will study non-traditional farming practices, biotechnology and post-harvest management, Terpstra said.

The Cochran programme was named after Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran and is designed for specialists and administrators from middle-income and emerging market economies whose principal agricultural exports may not compete significantly with US agricultural products.

AKI was announced by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George W Bush during Singh's July 2005 visit to the US.

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