Connecting Scientists Across Continents

It began with an idea – helping young scientists from developing countries collaborate and learn from scientists at Iowa State.

Ramesh Kanwar, chair of the agricultural and biosystems engineering department, says the idea blossomed into what is now the Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellows Program in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service.

“We were in the right place at the right time,” Kanwar says.

The right place was in Bucharest, Romania in 2001 at a meeting with the World Bank and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). After the meeting the USAID representatives asked the group where to invest some extra funds. Kanwar and his colleagues suggested investing in young scientists and training them as global professionals.

As a result, about 40 Romanian scientists came to Iowa State between 2002 and 2004 to learn about water quality, manure management, biotechnology, food safety, plant breeding and environmental quality.

In 2004, the idea evolved into the Borlaug Fellowship Program. The change allowed universities and countries throughout the globe to take advantage of the program, which helps developing countries strengthen sustainable agricultural practices by providing scientific training and collaborative research opportunities to visiting researchers, policymakers and university faculty.

Today, the Borlaug Fellowship Program has provided 475 fellowships for agricultural professionals from 59 countries. Since 2002, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has mentored 71 scholars from 10 countries.