Eleven faculty members and administrators from Ethiopia’s University of Gondar (UOG) visited CFAES Nov. 14 as part of Ohio State’s participation in the One Health Initiative. One Health supports collaborative research recognizing the intertwined relationships between animal health, human health and the environment. Discussions with CFAES faculty and tours of the facilities were coordinated by the college’s Office of International Programs in Agriculture (IPA), whose mission is to support the globalization efforts of the college through international research, Extension and learning.
Dr. Mark Erbaugh, director of IPA (pictured, center, exchanging gifts with UOG President Dr. Mengesha Admassu), received the delegation and delivered a presentation on agriculture in Ohio and how The Ohio State University, as a land-grant institution, plays a pivotal role in supporting the agricultural and natural resources sector through academic instruction, research and outreach.
Strategic partnerships, new perspectives
Dr. Erbaugh’s comments were reiterated by Dr. Bruce McPheron (pictured, right), Ohio State’s vice president for agricultural administration and dean of CFAES, who also was interested in the ambitions that the UOG visitors had for their own departments and how working collaboratively with Ohio State may help them achieve their goals.
“I think you actually can learn a lot through strategic partnerships where you’re looking at the same problems from different perspectives,” said Dr. McPheron, who added that he was delighted to have stepped into a situation in which the two universities had already built a strong partnership.
UOG has had a formal memorandum of understanding with Ohio State since 2010, and with this visit, is seeking to strengthen the ties between faculty members of both institutions, including those in CFAES.
Greater research capacity, collaboration
One topic of discussion was UOG’s desire to build its agricultural research capacity. Dr. Fassil Kebede, dean of UOG’s Faculty of Agriculture and a professor of soil science, identified some specific challenges that underlie his university’s research interests, most notably the need to develop climate-smart agricultural practices. Given the range of disciplines represented in the UOG delegation and the premise of the One Health Initiative, it’s no surprise that there was collective agreement that an integrated approach is necessary in addressing today’s problems of food security and climate change.
“It’s all very interesting,” said Dr. Dawit Lebenie, assistant professor of geology at UOG. “You come to realize how problem-solving is becoming dependent on interdisciplinary research.”
Foundation built on soils, food
Later, a smaller group of UOG visitors was given a tour through the lab of Dr. Richard Dick, professor of soil microbial ecology in CFAES’s School of Environment and Natural Resources. Research conducted by Dr. Dick’s team attempts to improve agroecosystems in Senegal through a better understanding of microbial composition, soil moisture and biomass production.
Given that agriculture is the foundation of the Ethiopian economy, a tour of the CFAES Food Industries Center’s (FIC) pilot food and dairy production labs led by Dr. Joe Kleinhenz, program specialist, was especially valuable in emphasizing the importance of linking with the private sector and exploring ways to enhance the value-addition marketability of food products.
‘Headed in the right direction’
“Considering that more than 80 percent of the labor force in Ethiopia is involved in small-holder farming, you can’t talk about the future of Ethiopia without talking about agriculture,” Dr. Erbaugh said. He added that the country’s economic growth is “headed in the right direction” and that hopefully this progress will continue as a collaborative relationship solidifies between CFAES and UOG.