Texas A&M team wins award for supporting global food security

Board for International Food and Agricultural Development announces 2019 Scientific Excellence Awards

A team of Yihun Dile, Ph.D., Abeyou Worqlul, Ph.D., and Jean-Claude Bizimana, Ph.D., has been selected for the 2019 Award for Senior Research Team for their work on the Integrated Decision Support System (IDSS) in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Feed the Future Laboratory for Small Scale Irrigation (ILSSI) at the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M AgriLife.

The Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) Awards for Scientific Excellence in a Feed the Future Innovation Lab annually recognize student and senior researchers for significant achievements from work performed under USAID-funded Feed the Future Innovation Labs. Selection criteria include scientific merit; relevance to country priorities; potential for broader impact at scale; and evidence of commitment to inclusive development and local capacity development.

The team has been recognized for their work on the Integrated Decision Support System, an integrated analytic methodology enabling assessment of the production, environmental, economic, and nutritional consequences of the introduction of multiple small-scale irrigation systems in three countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The Integrated Decision Support System fills a critical gap in policy, planning, and monitoring for small-scale irrigation. The set of analytical tools also advanced the discipline of natural resource and irrigation studies by integrating natural science and social science perspectives to assess opportunities and constraints as it pertains to scaling irrigation.

The team’s work yielded significant research findings related to the Feed the Future Goals and the U.S. Global Food Security Strategy. Research demonstrated sustainable levels of water and land use for small-scale irrigation toward improved nutrition and food security. Research results from the ILSSI have shown that farmer-led and -implemented irrigation has proven to be an effective way to lift farm productivity and household income in Feed the Future countries. The project has also built strong ties with partners in Ghana, Ethiopia and Tanzania to further human and institutional capacity development in small-scale irrigation planning, monitoring and implementing.

“Their research has provided national governments in sub-Saharan African with robust information to integrate farmer-led irrigation into food security policies and programs,” said Nicole Lefore, Ph.D., director, Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Small Scale Irrigation. “The researchers have also been deeply committed to mentoring junior scientists, and they have contributed institutionally to Texas A&M—breaking down silos between departments and disciplines to build an integrated tool to support sustainable agricultural growth in developing countries.”

Dile received his Ph.D. in Natural Resource Management from Stockholm University. He provides training on the use and application of the IDSS to technical experts, policy level decision-makers, and graduate students. Worqlul received his Ph.D. in Biological and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University.  He contributes to the development and application of the IDSS framework and leading the first of its kind irrigation suitability study in Ethiopia and Ghana.  Bizimana received his Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from Texas A&M University. He conducts farm-level analysis to evaluate economic and nutritional impacts of small-scale irrigation technologies on family farms.

In addition to scientific research, a core commitment of the members of this IDSS team has been human and institutional capacity development. The team supported and mentored numerous students in Africa, showing a level of dedication above and training. The team also fostered relationships with stakeholders to integrate the IDSS into institutional curriculum at various national universities and into national planning institutions. The team’s dedication has been a large part of the success of the ILSSI project and.

The Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) is a presidentially appointed federal advisory committee established in 1975 under Title XII of the Foreign Assistance Act, as amended. Recognizing the critical role of US land-grant institutions in agricultural development, domestically and abroad, and the importance of their engagement in USAID development programs, the BIFAD‘s main purpose is to advise USAID on agriculture and higher education issues pertinent to global food security in developing countries.

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