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Iraq agriculture officials visit NMSU for Cooperative Extension training

Iraq Agricultural Extension officials visited New Mexico during November to learn how the United States' land-grant university Cooperative Extension Service programs operate.

NMSU Extension specialist Hamdy Oushy explains the operation of an organic lettuce farm to visiting Iraq Agricultural Extension officials during their tour of New Mexico farms. The officials learned how U.S. land-grant university's Cooperative Extension Service programs operate during a USDA-FAS Cochran Fellowship Program training at NMSU. The delegates' faces in this photo have been blurred to protect their identities. (NMSU Photo by Jane Moorman)

"They came to develop an understanding of our Extension system. The two systems are total opposites, but they want to see how our system is implemented," said Egyptian native Hamdy Oushy, NMSU Extension specialist and Iraq Agricultural Extension training program coordinator, who helped write and presented the methodology curriculum by delivering it in Arabic to the participants.

The visitors began their training by visiting the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Services offices at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C.

After arriving in Las Cruces they participated in a week of classes on Extension methodology that included presentations from the various NMSU Extension departments. The visitors learned how the Extension system is divided into agriculture, home economics, 4-H youth, and community and economic development.

The Iraq delegates were surprised that the Extension Service included consumer education, home management, family life, personal growth and development, and youth development. They stated that in Iraq, Extension is a branch of the Ministry of Agriculture and only addresses agriculture.

"They are also amazed that our system is driven from citizen advisory groups determining what the needs are in their community, county and region," said Jeff Bader, Bernalillo County Extension director who joined Oushy in writing and presenting the Extension methodology curriculum. "In their country, everything has been directed by the government down to the people. They are trying to learn how to turn that around."

During the on-campus presentations, the Iraqi delegates were introduced to all of the Extension departments and specialists who operate from the campus and toured the various agricultural research facilities.

"One of the goals of our work in that country is to develop cooperation between Iraq's agricultural colleges and governmental agricultural and Extension agencies," said Oushy. "Visiting NMSU allows them to see how Extension functions as an integral part of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics."

After the week on campus, the delegates visited NMSU Agricultural Science Centers in Las Cruces, Los Lunas and Alcalde, and toured farm operations ranging from organic production in Espaņola to an apple orchard in Nambe. They also visited a cattle ranch in the Estancia Valley, an Acoma sheep herding camp and a dairy in Dona Ana County, as well as chile, pecan and cotton processing plants in Dona Ana County and the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District irrigation system.

During their stay in Las Cruces, the delegates met with NMSU President Michael Martin; Miley Gonzales, Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture; Lowell Catlett, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics; and Octavio Ramirez, department head of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business.

"We hope that this is the first of a series of training visits from select agriculturalists from a variety of countries to be sponsored by the Cochran Fellowship program" Ramirez said. "These types of programs provide a wonderful opportunity for them to learn from us, not only about technical, scientific and institutional issues, but in regard to the openness, tolerance and fairness of our society."

This project was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agriculture Service Cochran Fellowship Training program. Since 1984, the U.S. Congress has made funds available for training agriculturalists from middle income countries, emerging markets and emerging democracies.

Training opportunities are for senior- and mid-level specialists and administrators, from the public and private sectors, concerned with agricultural trade, agribusiness development, management, policy, marketing and technology transfer. All training occurs in the United States.

The Cochran Fellowship Program has provided U.S.-based, non-academic training for almost 7,600 international participants from 81 countries worldwide.

Through this and other programs and projects, USDA hopes to assist Iraq in developing strategies to rebuild and revitalize its agriculture and agribusiness sector, which will include an effective Extension Service based on education and research. Iraq's agricultural sector is the second largest contributor to the national economy and employs one-quarter of its workforce.