Texas A&M administrator takes on new role in world’s newest country

April 3, 2012

By: Paul Schattenberg, 210-467-6575, paschattenberg@ag.tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION — Dr. Steve Whisenant, who for the past nine years has served as head of the ecosystem science and management department at Texas A&M University in College Station, has recently taken on a new position in the world’s newest nation – South Sudan.

Dr. Steve Whisenant has accepted an in-country administrative position for a USAID-funded project in South Sudan led by the Texas A&M University System's Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Whisenant)

Whisenant recently relocated to Bor in the state of Jonglei. He will be working in conjunction with the Texas A&M University System’s Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, serving as chief of party for a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded agricultural improvement project led by the institute.

Through a USAID agreement, the Borlaug Institute is collaborating with John Garang Memorial University of Science and Technology in Bor to help develop its agricultural research, teaching, and extension curriculum and skills. It is also collaborating with university personnel on related issues, including youth development, gender equity and conflict resolution.

“Dr. Whisenant had provided outstanding leadership for the department over the past nine years, and we are pleased that he has taken on this new challenge to help feed our world,” said Dr. Mark Hussey, vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences. “We look forward to his continued contributions as a faculty member, both in College Station and abroad.”

Joseph King, associate director of the Borlaug Institute, said Whisenant will provide on-site project administration and support for institute and other A&M System personnel, as well as coordinate and collaborate with personnel from Iowa State University and other entities involved in the  project. The initial project term is 2 ½ years with a further 2 ½-year extension possible.

“Borlaug Institute personnel have been in South Sudan for a few months starting the project,” King said. “Dr. Whisenant has been providing guidance from College Station, but now he will provide on-site administration and leadership for the project.”

Whisenant will live in Bor and office at Garang University with other project staff.

“Institute staff will collaborate alongside faculty at the university in a number of agricultural sectors essential to the development of Jonglei state and the rest of South Sudan,” King said.

Borlaug Institute and other Texas A&M System personnel will provide expertise, including technical and hands-on assistance, in the areas of rangeland and livestock, fisheries, field crops, and ecosystems conservation and management, said project coordinators.

Whisenant (right) stands with Daniel Dhieu, president of the student association, in front of John Garang Memorial University of Science and Technology in Bor. Whisenant will live in Bor and office at the university -- working with Garang University personnel and others involved in the project. (Borlaug Institute photo)

“South Sudan is a resource-rich country limited by poor infrastructure, inadequate education, and a lack of practical training in agriculture and natural resource management,” Whisenant said. “I’m excited to be part of the Norman Borlaug Institute of International Agriculture team working with the United States Agency for International Development to improve the future for the people of South Sudan.”

King said Whisenant already has been an important contributor to other efforts related to international agriculture, including providing expertise in ecosystem science and management to the USAID Pastoral Engagement, Adaptation and Capacity Enhancement, or PEACE, project in Afghanistan. The PEACE project was created to help the country’s nomadic herders, the Kuchi, improve livestock production, manage rangeland and natural resources, and use modern technology to their advantage.

In 2011, Whisenant was elected to lead the international Society for Ecological Restoration, a non-profit headquartered in Washington, D.C. with members in 70 countries worldwide.

More information the Borlaug Institute and its leadership of or participation in various international agriculture programs worldwide may be found at http://borlaug.tamu.edu.

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