GKI Advances Pakistan-Afghanistan Science Collaboration

March 25, 2012
A farmer in Afghanistan plows his field. Afghani agriculture is threatened by climate change, poor soil management, low quality seeds, and poor grain storage.
A farmer in Afghanistan plows his field. Afghani
agriculture is threatened by climate change, poor soil management, low quality seeds, and poor grain storage.

With the success of Round I of our Learning and Innovation Network for Knowledge and Solutions (LINK) program, the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI) is excited to announce the beginning of LINK Round II, hosted by Afghanistan and Pakistan. The winners are Dr. Rashid Ahmad, Professor in the Department of Crop Physiology at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad-Pakistan; Ajir Gul Mohammad, Associate Professor in the Department of Agronomy at Kabul University, Afghanistan; and Prof. Dr. Mansoor-ul-Hasan, Professor in the Grain Storage Research and Training Cell, Department of Agricultural Entomology at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad-Pakistan.

LINK Round II differs from Round I in more ways that just geography. In soliciting Requests for Engagement, GKI encouraged applications from joint teams in which principal investigators would hail from both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The regional nature of the Requests for Engagement was highlighted at a stakeholder consultation in March 2011 in Islamabad. Hosted by the Global Knowledge Initiative and held at the Pakistan Higher Education Council, the consultative meeting brought together researchers from both countries to zero in on shared development challenges affecting the people of both Afghanistan and Pakistan in the key sectors of agriculture, agro-industrial enterprise development, and water. (For more on LINK Round 1, see our website).

The winning Request for Engagement, entitled “Trainings in seed technology and grain storage for capacity development,” was announced as the LINK Round II winner in November 2011. In Afghanistan, where 80% of the population relies on agriculture for their livelihoods, dynamic seed technology research constitutes an integral component of sustainable development. After years of conflict, the status of seed technology and grain storage in rural Afghanistan is bleak. Currently, farmers plant low quality seeds that produce low yields per hectare because access to and knowledge of better options are limited. Outdated seed and grain storage methods further hinder productivity. The result is a continuous cycle of poverty, food insecurity, and conflict. Unsatisfied with this status quo, our winners forged a collaboration aimed at researching new seed technologies and training rural Afghan farmers about on-farm seed technology applications and improved grain storage techniques. Currently, agriculture faculty members at Kabul University use antiquated teaching and research methods, as seed testing is not available. This partnership seeks to build the research capacity of Kabul University’s Faculty of Agriculture, while spreading the benefits of that research to local populations.

As the Round II pilot winners, the Principal Investigators and their teams win a scholarship for LINK Phase I activities. Phase I of LINK focuses on a series of trainings and the performance of research to help the Principal Investigators and their teams (1) make sense of the science, technology and innovation context in which their challenge is to be solved, (2) assess the knowledge partnership landscape to determine a baseline of collaborative activity, and (3) scout for optimal partners who may have resources available to help the team solve their challenge. The winning team also receives a $10,000 grant to jumpstart collaborative activities. Buttressed with GKI’s support and our global network of solvers, the Principal Investigators have the potential to improve agricultural productivity and rural livelihoods in Afghanistan and beyond through the purpose-driven network GKI will help them forge.

The Technical Committee, charged with recommending which Request should be taken up as a LINK pilot challenge, was chaired by Nina Fedoroff, President of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences. The Technical Committee also included: Deanna Behring, the Director of International Programs at the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State University; Saeed Kazmi, Clean Energy Consultant and Director of National University of Sciences and Technologay Consulting in Pakistan; Bahadar Nawab Khattak, Head of Development Studies Department at COMSATS Institute of Information Technology; Dale Smith, International Networking Coordinator at the Network Startup Resource Center at the University of Oregon; Johnny Weiss, Cofounder and Executive Director of Solar Energy International; and James Williams, Director of International Networking at Indiana University.

 

Contributor: Christina Golubski

Photo: Fardin Wiesel (UN Photo) from Solutions journal