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Saturday, September 18, 2021

UC Davis launches $17 million Agriculture Center with Pakistan

DANIEL TAK / AGGIE
DANIEL TAK / AGGIE

Center part of federal initiative to find solutions in food security

On Oct. 28, UC Davis launched a $17 million U.S.-Pakistan Food and Agriculture Center. The five-year project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, will help faculty and graduate students to study and perform research at UC Davis and the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad (UAF) in Pakistan.

UC Davis will receive $10 million of the funding, and during its first year, the project will consist of workshops to help Faisalabad build relationships both through technology and entrepreneurship.

“UC Davis has been partnering with colleagues in Pakistan since 2009, sharing expertise in agriculture from crop production to post-harvest handling,” said James Hill, associate dean emeritus of International Programs for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in a press release. “Establishment of this new center will allow us to build on those efforts, with a renewed emphasis on an exchange of faculty and graduate students.”

Present at the event was a list of speakers, including Joanna Regulska, vice provost and associate chancellor of Global Affairs, Alan Van Egmond, senior policy advisor for Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Ashfaq Ahmad Chattha, a thematic leader for the Center of Advanced studies at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.

Also among the speakers was Marwa Zafarullah, a UC Davis graduate student studying genetics and genomics. Zafarullah, who is Pakistani and whose parents currently reside in Pakistan, praised the collaboration as a unique partnership between two of the world’s leading universities in agricultural research.

“[The project] is a symbol of change and beginning of promising friendship between Pakistan’s best and the world’s best agricultural school for the betterment of [Pakistan’s] agricultural community,” Zafarullah said in an interview for the Daily Democrat.

The program, which is being built through a $127 million investment from the United States Agency for International Development, is part of a larger initiative between the U.S. and Pakistan, which includes research from other universities across the country including the University of Utah and Arizona State University. The initiative includes solving issues regarding water, energy and food security. UC Davis helps with food security while The University of Utah and Arizona State University focus on water and energy security.

The plan also includes the construction of libraries, laboratories and research facilities in Pakistan. The new facilities will help with the program’s themes of  biotechnology, outreach, agricultural policy and climate change.

Thomas L. Rost, professor emeritus at the department of plant biology within the College of Biological Sciences, discussed why UC Davis was picked to help with the program.

“The program focuses on agriculture and food security. UAF is the leading agriculture university in Pakistan and UC Davis is the number-one ranked college of agriculture in the whole world, and we have lots of people working on aspects of food security,” Rost said. “Davis is just one of the best in the world so we’re a perfect fit.”

Agriculture is Pakistan’s largest economic sector and provides work for over half of the country. Throughout the five years, the program will focus on crops such as wheat, cotton, rice, sugarcane and maize, specifically on their abilities to adapt to climate change and to become more drought-resistant.

Rost hopes the graduate students and faculty who will travel between the two countries will build strong relationships and learn new technology that can be applied in the field.   

“Some of the benefits are intangible. You’re establishing relationships with faculty members, administrators and students who have the common interests that you have so we’re establishing partnerships so that we can work with them on joint projects,” Rost said. “They can come to us and learn new technology and techniques and find out about things that we’re doing, and it’s reciprocal. We go there and find out things that we didn’t know either.”

Written by: Ivan Valenzuela – campus@theaggie.org

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