Michigan State University will use a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to improve agricultural production and reduce poverty in areas of the world suffering from rapid urbanization, population growth and skills gaps.
Receiving up to $25 million throughout five years, Michigan State's new Global Center for Food Systems Innovation will focus on finding solutions to the problems that affect global food production.
The center is part of USAID's Higher Education Solutions Network -- a partnership with seven U.S. and foreign universities designed to develop solutions to global development challenges.
"If we 'bend the trend' toward equitable and sustainable development and build the body of knowledge on how to harness these trends, we can have the largest impact on the productivity of global food systems," says Ajit Srivastava, chair of Michigan State's department of biosystems and agricultural engineering and co-director of GCFSI.
Reitumetse Mabokela, professor in the Michigan State department of educational administration, is also co-director.
GCFSI will engage a team of specialists from multiple disciplines around the world. Other participating institutions include Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania, Wageningen University & Research Centre in the Netherlands and The Energy & Resources Institute in India. It will be housed within Michigan State's International Studies & Programs.
Undergraduate and graduate students will form the Translational Scholars Corps and, as future leaders, will be key to the center's success, Srivastava says.
GCFSI will work with food and agricultural sciences, engineering and education experts to discover, test and implement new solutions for food systems in Central America, East Africa and Southeast Asia, he says. In addition, the center will increase the involvement of women in global food security.
Solutions will be disseminated to stakeholders, such as USAID, agribusinesses, farmers, traders and other food system workers throughout the globe.
"By collaborating with top universities around the world, we hope to tap today's brightest minds and focus ingenuity on global development challenges," USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah says. "With the right ideas, we can reduce extreme poverty by more than 60% in just one generation."
Each of the seven universities will establish development labs that will work with USAID's field mission experts and Washington, D.C., staff to apply science and technology to address problems in areas such as global health, food security and chronic conflict, he says.
"We have great experience drawing upon the multidisciplinary talents and bilateral connections within our own global network to address some of the world's most pressing and complex problems," says Jeffrey Riedinger, dean of International Studies & Programs. "As part of the Higher Education Solution Network, GCFSI will dramatically increase our potential."