Hammett Directs USAID Project to Improve Global Food Security
May 15, 2013
For millions of people around the world, getting enough calories to survive is a challenge, but helping them meet these daily needs solves only part of the problem. “Bread for now, hunger tomorrow,” an old Spanish proverb says of short-term solutions.
Professor A.L. “Tom” Hammett of the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials directs a new multi-university USAID project to improve long-term food resources by strengthening the capacity of food-challenged nations to educate agricultural professionals.
USAID has awarded $6.2 million in core funding to Virginia Tech through the university’s Office of International Research, Education, and Development to address knowledge gaps and modernize agricultural systems in developing countries. Up to $70 million in additional funds may be available through associated awards by USAID. Virginia Tech will lead the five-year project, partnering with the Pennsylvania State University, Tuskegee University, and the University of Florida.
The project, called InnovATE (Innovation in Agricultural Training and Education), is a component of the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative. The four U.S. universities will work throughout the developing world to help agricultural training and educational institutions — from universities to primary schools — improve their curricula, strengthen administrative capacity, and build their infrastructure. University teams will address critical issues related to agricultural education in the 21st century, including climate change, conservation, and carbon sequestration. The project will facilitate long-term collaboration between U.S. universities and these overseas institutions.
“We are committed to improving educational systems around the globe,” Hammett said. “We are eager to build on our recent experiences assisting educational institutions in Liberia, Nepal, Senegal, and South Sudan.”
He says the organization will take a holistic approach to improving the broad base of education as it relates to agriculture and food production. It will include such topics as gender equity because women are the major food producers and marketers in many regions.
Hammett, who has worked on efforts in Nepal since 1974, served for the past six years as director of the Memorial Center of Excellence at the country’s Institute of Forestry, a USAID-funded project that honors 24 natural resource conservationists killed in a 2006 helicopter crash. Since the center’s inception, he has traveled to Nepal to conduct workshops on resource planning, library building, proposal writing, administrative improvement, and establishing research collaborations, thereby facilitating numerous partnerships between U.S. faculty and their counter- parts at the Nepalese institute. Virginia Tech’s role in the project concluded in late 2012 as onsite administrators took over leadership of the institute.
Over the past 15 years, Hammett has been heavily involved in the university’s study abroad efforts, introducing and facilitating new overseas courses in a number of locations, teaching courses in Cuba, Belize, and the Dominican Republic, and recruiting and mentoring other faculty to lead courses abroad. He has also hosted and organized training on campus for educators from Germany, Albania, Nepal, and India.
Colleagues praise Hammett’s integrity, enthusiasm, and tireless personal commitment. They describe him as someone who can bridge the academic and real worlds, taking the notion of education well beyond traditional settings and students.