Amin Abaza, the Egyptian Prime Minister of Agriculture, visited campus Monday after a tour of Sacramento Valley’s agricultural operations on Sunday.
Abaza toured a farm in the Marysville area, witnessed rice drying and harvesting operations and learned about the fish screens, or screens designed to keep fish out of aqueducts, in the Yuba River irrigation diversion.
Abaza’s tour was followed by a reception on Monday from 4 to 5 p.m. in Room 3001 of the Plant and Environmental Sciences building.
“I think he knew before coming here that UC Davis was the best place in the world for [agriculture],” said Adel Kader, professor emeritus in the department of plant science. “And his visit with several groups here only confirmed that.”
Abaza’s consultation with UC Davis agricultural experts provided Abaza with the perspective to address difficult agricultural problems in Egypt as well as many developing countries that depend on agriculture to generate income.
The crops in Egypt, such as tomatoes, cotton, wheat, beans and rice are similar to the important crops in California, said Michael Parrella, UC Davis associate dean for agricultural sciences in an interview with Dateline UC Davis.
“There is a general focus in Egypt of developing sustainable methods of production for these crops and we are doing similar work here,” Parella said. “In the area of biotechnology, we have many projects that are similar to those in Egypt. For example, improving drought and salinity tolerance of plants as well as increasing a plant’s resistance to insects and disease. We need now to help interested faculty members make a connection.”
Abaza’s visit, however, did not just benefit agricultural efforts in Egypt, Kader said.
“[Collaboration with Egypt] is a two way street,” Kader said. “For example, in the case of rice, the productivity of rice in Egypt is really as good as it is in California. There are also some experiences from Egypt that could be useful to growers here, and vice versa. This applies not only to rice, but Abaza’s interests in horticulture, [such as fruits and vegetables].”
UC Davis has been collaborating with Egypt since 1979 to enhance agriculture production and harvest technology in Egypt. Over 150 UC Davis staff and students visited Egypt and approximately 300 Egyptians came to California. The project was initially funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Egyptian government.
Though funding for the project has since dried up, Abaza has been working to restore relations with California, pulling together resources from his ministry to revive the connections once made and pay for Egyptian farmers to learn new agricultural techniques in California.
Relations with Egypt’s ministry of agriculture were already strong, due to a consortium made in 2007 between countries in the Middle East and UC Davis. The agreement made in Egypt was designed to provide networking between agricultural resources.
When this agreement was made, Abaza expressed further interest in collaborating with UC Davis – an interest solidified by his visit on Monday.
“This is the right start and the right moment, and we shouldn’t lose this opportunity,” Abaza said in a Dateline UC Davis article. “We really can’t let this opportunity pass by. We must try to restart our relationship.”
LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.