International Agricultural Development

Students and affiliates of the International Agricultural Development program at UC Davis, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the program. (Photo: Brad Hooker | UC Davis)
Students and affiliates of the International Agricultural Development program at UC Davis, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the program. (Photo: Brad Hooker | UC Davis)

Celebrating 50 years of global success at UC Davis.

The International Agricultural Development (IAD) program at UC Davis celebrated its 50thanniversary this year, with the announcement of a new fellowship program for graduate students. In a forum on October 10 at UC Davis, IAD students, faculty, staff, alumni from near and far, and distinguished guests, including Congressman John Garamendi, addressed the successes and promising future of the International Agricultural Development program.

During the 1960s’ era of agricultural enlightenment, UC Davis pulled together the groups — primarily in agricultural, social, and environmental science disciplines — that were necessary to meet students’ growing interest in international agricultural work. An undergraduate and a master’s degree program in IAD were established. Today, the programs are still of great interest to students, and there are more than 800 IAD alumni working in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Helene Dillard, Dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis, welcomed the group and noted that international agricultural work is very rewarding and is one of the areas for which UC Davis is recognized globally.

A quick survey of IAD students in the audience showed a broad array of interests, such as revitalizing agriculture in Haiti, developing sustainable coffee distribution systems in Colombia, establishing tropical crop production, developing sustainable crop production in China, working on supply chains and economic development, creating wildlife habitats in walnut orchards, working in extension programs, and joining the Peace Corps.

Current IAD master’s degree student Jason Tsichlis is focusing his research on agricultural education in West Africa, following two years of Peace Corps service in Burkina Faso. He especially likes the self-direction focus of the IAD program in combination with a strong sense of group cooperation among the different disciplines.

Jim Hill, Associate Dean for International Programs in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences noted that, “It’s hard to travel anywhere in the world without finding one or more of our UC Davis grads in most countries, sometimes in extremely remote areas.” Speaking to the students, Hill said, “You are the face of UC Davis out there in the world.”

IAD alumnus Dan Berman, who graduated in 1976, returned to UC Davis from Mexico City for the 50th anniversary event. He knew from the start of his undergraduate days that he wanted to work overseas in agriculture, and he has done it through the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Berman, a Minister-Counselor for Agriculture at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, has spent 22 years overseas, working on four continents, learning three languages, and working on policy, capacity building, and promoting U.S. agricultural trade.

“This IAD program is what set me on that journey,” said Berman. His advice to IAD students: “First, figure out what you want to do, then figure out how to get there. Develop different options, and find different doors to knock on. The door that opens may not have been your original choice, but it will lead to unexpected opportunities.”

Kicking off a new Research and Innovation Fellowship for Agriculture (RIFA) program was UC Davis program administrator Elana Peach-Fine. The program offers 12 to 16 IAD graduate students two- to six-month fellowships to work overseas on local agricultural development projects in seven countries — Brazil, Colombia, South Africa, Senegal, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The fellowship program is part of a network with other universities, and is funded by the US AID Global Development Lab in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

The launch of an endowment to support the International Agricultural Development program at UC Davis was also announced during the celebration event. “Core support for student travel, lectureships, and curriculum development will help galvanize the forward-looking IAD program,” said Pam Pacelli, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The endowment will be a stable source of support for IAD program priorities and will ultimately help with food security and livelihood improvement around the world.

Congressman John Garamendi, a strong supporter of the University of California, and a farmer in Walnut Grove, recounted the value of his Peace Corps experience in Ethiopia several decades ago. He noted that international work not only helps other countries, but returns value to the U.S. Addressing the current students in the IAD program, Garamendi told them, “Agriculture is the foundation in the developing world. You are interested in the most fundamental activities — sustainability, economic development, extension building, educational systems, and growing crops. Increasing the incomes in small communities helps educate their children.”

With great encouragement, Garamendi told the students, “There’s so much need in the world, and you have the desire to make things better and solve problems. Don’t ever lose that. You can show people that they can succeed. Apply your knowledge, and apply your heart, and you can help save the world.”