An ACES-led delegation recently visited Myanmar to explore possibilities for adapting the land grant model of teaching, research, and extension to address critical issues facing the country’s agricultural and food systems.
“Myanmar, formerly Burma, was once the world’s largest producer and exporter of rice. However, during decades of political instability and dictatorship, the agricultural sector was neglected. The country is currently undertaking some reforms and is making an effort to restore agriculture,” explained Alex Winter-Nelson, director of the ACES Office of International Programs.
The trip to Myanmar during mid-September and a corresponding symposium hosted by Yetzen Agricultural University in Naypyidaw were sponsored by Wilmar International Limited, an agribusiness group based in Singapore.
The Illinois delegation, in addition to Winter-Nelson, included Associate Chancellor for Corporate and International Relations Pradeep Khanna, ACES Associate Dean for Research Neal Merchen, ACES Associate Dean of Extension and Outreach George Czapar, ACES Associate Dean of Academic Programs Laurie Kramer, Professor and Director of the ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss Prasanta Kalita, and Director of Operations for the Office of Public Engagement Sarah Zehr.
During the symposium, the Illinois representatives presented on topics that included extension infrastructure and development, teaching excellence, and research process and design. Winter-Nelson said the attendees were particularly interested in improving teaching and learning outcomes as well as extension models and methods.
“The University (Yetzen) has a lot going for it. They have a large, internationally trained faculty who are eager to learn about new teaching methods and how to improve their teaching. They have functional experimental fields and farms and remarkably good internet capacity,” said Winter-Nelson.
Since the symposium, the Yetzen faculty have developed white papers on topics including agricultural policy, postharvest loss, crop breeding, teaching excellence, extension, climate and crop protection, and water quality/management. The Illinois group is currently reviewing the papers and will make recommendations to Wilmar on the most feasible areas to begin collaborations.
“This country has been left behind because of policies and government, while other countries in this region have seen progress. However, because so much has been neglected, we feel we can make a big impact with a modest investment,” said Winter-Nelson.