EL BEHEIRA: Around 100 Iraqis are currently receiving training at the American University in Cairo’s Desert Development Center (DDC) in Beheira.
For three weeks, subject to extension, a group of professors from five American Universities – Texas A&M University, Washington State University, Utah State University, University of California at Davis, and New Mexico State University – will be training around 100 Iraqi agricultural specialists and university professors from five different Iraqi universities.
The United States Department of Agriculture is funding the Iraq Agricultural Extensions Revitalization Project (IAER), currently hosted by the DDC.
Sixty-seven percent of Iraqis work in agriculture, and therefore developing this sector could provide immediate employment and boost the economy, Robert Whitney, the team leader of the IAER told The Daily Star Egypt. The team was pleasantly surprised with the standard of the Iraqi trainees.
We insisted on holding the training program in Egypt because of the similar environmental conditions to those in Iraq in terms of weather, kinds of plants and livestock, said Kays Aziz Jawad, an Iraqi deputy Minister of Agriculture complimenting the Egyptian efforts and the unique experience of the DDC.
The trainees will be responsible for presenting proposals for agricultural reform in Iraq in light of what they learned during the year-and-a-half program and USAID will fund and help implement these projects in Iraq, Whitney told The Daily Star Egypt.
Located in South Tahrir area, 160 km north-west of Cairo in Beheira governorate, away from the irrigated fertile Nile Valley, the 28- year-old DDC is a nonprofit research and training institution. It aims to develop the Egyptian deserts through conducting research, training sessions and providing services. The center s researchers managed to develop a new breed of cow able to endure the desert environment and produce increased amounts of meat and milk through a combination of both the Egyptian cow, Balady, and the Swiss dairy brown cow. They also created a forest of the Australian Casuarinas trees to solve the problem of excessive desert wind.
It also offers training courses for farmers, owners of land and farms, including participants in the Mubarak National Project for Settling and Developing Newly Reclaimed Lands.
The center, so far, has trained around, 4,000 farmers, landowners and university graduates, and conducts refreshing courses for around 3,500 of them, said Manduh Hegazy, head of the training division.
The center s laboratories provide farmers and landowners with technical advice in terms of soil appropriateness, plant diseases and fertilizers and pesticides at low prices, said Khaled Genena, the finance and administration manager of the DDC. It has two research stations, one in South Tahrir, and the other in Sadat city in Menoufiya governorate, each encompassing 574 and 25 feddans respectively It is an excellent and very accommodating place, Whitney told The Daily Star Egypt.