It’s been 30 years since Gary Wingenbach, professor of international agriculture in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications, volunteered his time to help farmers combat soil erosion in Guatemala. Prior to his acceptance in a two-week assignment with Winrock International’s Asia Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program/Bangladesh, he had served in the U.S. Peace Corps from 1985-1987.
The goal of Winrock’s F2F program is to strengthen the capacity of formal and informal Agriculture Education and Training (AET) institutions to publicize agriculture technologies and innovations, provide relevant training, conduct applied research, and offer service learning opportunities. The program is also designed to increase teaching and research capacities of professors and students and train technicians, Extension agents, and leader farmers to educate others.
Over the two weeks, Wingenbach, who is also a senior scientist with the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, conducted training in advanced agricultural research methodology for faculty members at Sylhet Agricultural University (SAU) in Sylhet, Bangladesh. The training focused primarily on research methods, scientific report writing and presentation skills.
“This experience reaffirmed my belief in transformative learning,” Wingenbach said. “Sylhet Agricultural University is a young and growing university. Its faculty, staff, and students, and many other Bangladeshis I met are warm-hearted, industrious and generous people. They know challenges exist in food security, employment and agricultural sector growth, and they are readying themselves to confront every challenge.”
Officially inaugurated on Nov. 2, 2006, SAU is located in Sylhet in the northeastern part of Bangladesh, about 245 kilometers from the capital Dhaka City. SAU has six faculty, or colleges, including Veterinary and Animal Science, Fisheries, Agriculture, Agricultural Economics and Business Studies, Agricultural Engineering and Technology, and Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering. These faculties have undergraduate and graduate programs comprised of approximately 3000 students with about 200 teachers. SAU coordinates its research projects through the Sylhet Agricultural University Research System.
Bangladesh is the eighth-most populous country in the world, with more than 160 million people. It is slightly smaller than the state of Iowa and among one of the most densely populated countries worldwide. It has achieved significant strides in human and social development since independence, including progress in gender equity, universal primary education, food production, health and population control. However, Bangladesh continues to face numerous political, economic, social and environmental challenges, including political instability, corruption, poverty, overpopulation and climate change.
Asia Farmer-to-Farmer Program/Bangladesh is funded by the United States Agency for International Development, and implemented by Winrock International, which is a nonprofit organization working with people in the United States and worldwide to empower the disadvantaged, increase economic opportunity, and sustain natural resources.