Dr. Usha Palaniswamy and Dr. Grant Jackson recently volunteered in Bangladesh, assisting the International University of Business Agriculture and Technology (IUBAT): College of Agriculture Science to develop curriculum for their new Master of Science in Agriculture programs in Agronomy and Horticulture. Below are their reflections of their assignment.
Dr. Jackson is a retired Professor of Agronomy and Superintendent of the Western Triangle Agricultural Research Center at Montana State University. He noted, “It was my first time to be in Bangladesh or Southern Asia. I really enjoyed working with the dedicated faculty of this University and, of course, the Winrock staff, they are all friendly and like to laugh. I couldn’t believe that pedestrians, rickshaws, bicycles, tricycle scooters, cars, small trucks, buses, and semi-trailer trucks all share the same, crowded road space. We visited two public agricultural universities and the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, so I was able to see a little of what is grown in the country. I really enjoyed all the fresh fruit that is available, particularly mango and bananas.
IUBAT was started in 1991 and now has a beautiful campus with about 10,000 students, 500 of them are enrolled in the College of Agricultural Sciences even though the college is only authorized to grant one degree, BS in Agricultural Science. The faculty decided to propose a MS degree in Agronomy and a MS degree in Horticulture and asked Winrock for assistance from US experts. Since the proposed degrees are for students who want to be farm advisors, I approached the assignment based on my field experiences throughout my career – what does a farmer need to know to be successful? Then the idea is to train the students based on the eventual customer’s needs for information.
It was a great assignment because I was around college students again, and I was able to present presentations on my agricultural experiences on two different occasions.”
Dr. Palaniswamy is a professor of biology at Strayer University in Orlando, Florida. She has led development and implementation of the “Vegetables Go To School” project in six countries in Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. She explained, “I have been volunteering with F2F programs since 2006 and I look forward to these assignments as an opportunity to learn about a new country, culture, and the challenges that go with it. There is also a sense of excitement and adventure that I experience with each assignment. I wanted to share my most recent volunteering experience with Winrock in Bangladesh- great country, although noisy, hot, and as humid as any other tropical country in the Indian sub-continent. The food is similar to the Indian/Pakistani cuisine and has a great variety to choose from and enjoy. I loved the rotis and biryani which were flavorful and filling; the sweetened yoghurt seems to be a Bangladeshi specialty, as I have never tasted such fresh yoghurt prepared and served in single-serve containers of clay.
I was taken by the collection of great faculty dedicated to providing quality education to the students in the fields of Business, Agriculture, and Technology. Contrary to what one sees in the news, I found the country to be relatively calm, peaceful, accepting of foreigners, and very hospitable. People are friendly, mild-tempered, and helpful. I spent a few days visiting other agricultural universities and the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute and their department of extension. Their model of extension is very efficient and seems to be producing results as noted in their economic growth. I will derive from this experience rich knowledge about variations in graduate curricula. My experiences in the country will be part of my teaching and research back in the US, incorporating it in my courses and communicating with my students in the US.
I have been volunteering for the past ten years and I can say that the Winrock field staff in Bangladesh are one of the best teams out there- most welcoming, cordial, helpful ,and go all the way in making your stay comfortable! I would certainly volunteer with Winrock in Bangladesh without a second thought! More volunteering experiences coming up from me, until then Chao’.”