At Cuttington University in Liberia, the College of Agriculture and Sustainable Development is slowly coming back to life, thanks in part to support from and involvement by several faculty members from N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Dr. David Jordan of N.C. State’s Crop Science Department is among those working with Cuttington through the five-year Excellence in Higher Education for Liberian Development (EHELD) program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Following years of instability, Liberia is rebuilding agricultural production and basic infrastructure, with help from EHELD. Other partner institutions include Research Triangle Institute, which is coordinating the project; University of Michigan, Rutgers University and Associates in International Development.
Recently, Dean Charles Mulbah, of Cuttington University’s College of Agriculture and Sustainable Development visited the United States to participate in a conference on Liberia and to meet with collaborators at some of the U.S. partner institutions.
Mulbah and Jordan sat down to share an update on progress at Cuttington. And on a recent visit to Liberia, Jordan captured videos showing a new student farm at the school and rooms that will become new laboratories.
N.C. State’s role with the project is to help create agricultural course curricula, with a focus on animal science and health, as well as plant and soil sciences. Rutgers is developing course modules related to natural resource management in addition to assisting with the agricultural curricula.
“We want Cuttington to have a series of paper and electronic resources that are instructional for both students and faculty in all courses being developed for the revised curricula,” Jordan said.
In September, those who have helped develop course modules will attend a workshop at Cuttington to discuss their modules and get feedback from students and faculty there who will use the course materials. A team effort from all partners will be needed to develop effective materials for students at Cuttington to be prepared for the opportunities ahead.
Rebuilding Liberia’s agricultural capacity will require training like that Cuttington provides. And more young people in the country need to see agriculture as a path to economic opportunity, Mulbah said.
“We want to build capacity in agriculture where young people can approach agriculture as a business to achieve the goal of food security,” he said. “We want them to see agriculture as a viable career.”
An important goal for Cuttington is to involve more women in agricultural education, Mulbah said. Like much of the developing world, women play a major role in producing food in Liberia, he said.
“Gender issues are very important,” Mulbah said. “Women are more at home with female faculty members and extension agents.”
A third of Cuttington’s 270 freshmen enrolled in agriculture are women. The head of the college’s animal science faculty is a woman, and Cuttington is sending two women students to study at N.C. State and at an African university, he said.
N.C. State faculty members who have been involved in developing course modules are Dr. Rick Brandenburg and Dr. Clyde Sorenson, entomology; Dr. Charlotte Farin and Dr. Sungwoo Kim, animal science; Gary Bullen, agricultural and resource economics; Dr. Jay Jayaratne, agricultural and extension education; and Dr. Bir Thapa, crop science. Other CALS faculty members also have provided assistance, and the working group will be expanded as needs arise and sources of expertise come available.
Graduate student Bridgette Lassiter has taken on the job of putting all the training modules into a common format. Thapa has spent two years at Cuttington as a visiting faculty member and has been instrumental in helping rebuild the university’s student farm. A video that Jordan shot at the farm shows a tool shed, a covered area for teaching, a well pump and some research plots. Jordan indicated that the student farm and other infrastructure projects are “a work in progress.”
This fall, a graduate student from Cuttington will begin working on a master’s degree in animal science, and hopefully will return to be a faculty member at Cuttington. Over the life of the project about 15 potential faculty members — all Liberian citizens — will be trained at the master’s degree level. Until more are trained, the college needs outside faculty to teach agricultural courses, Mulbah said.
Cuttington’s agriculture programs are making progress slowly. Mulbah has his eyes on the future – how to sustain the academic programs when the EHELD grants are over. Jordan’s videos show empty rooms that will be equipped as an animal science laboratory and a plant and soil science laboratory. In addition to traditional instruction, students will be trained to provide the analyses that farmers need, Mulbah said.
In addition, Liberia’s growers will need strategies for getting their products to market and grants to sustain their operations. Continued growth of the agricultural faculty is also important.
“Dean Mulbah is the key person on the ground to help us know what we need to do,” Jordan said. “We are now at a place where we can move forward.”
Cuttington’s agriculture catalog reflects curriculum revision work
Video tours of Cuttington University facilities (David Jordan)
Tour of student experimental farm, developed with help of Dr. Bir Thapa
Tour of future crops and soils laboratory