FAO and Texas A&M University System to continue partnership, focusing on building resilience and supporting sustainability

Bukar Tijani, Assistant Director-General, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department, FAO and Patrick J. Stover, Vice Chancellor and Dean for Agriculture and Life Sciences/Director, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, at the signing ceremony

10/05/2019 - 

Rome Building on years of successful partnership, FAO and Texas A&M University System (TAMUS) have agreed to continue in partnership for another five years, focusing on improving food security, livelihoods, and resilience in an effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

With 11 universities and seven state agencies, Texas A&M is one of the largest systems of higher education in the United States. It is renowned for its expertise and research in several areas that complement FAO’s mandate, including agriculture, natural resources and plant and animal health. In 2014, FAO and Texas A&M established a formal partnership to work together on a number of initiatives designed to improve food security, enable sustainable livelihoods and sustainably manage natural resources. These initiatives have taken a number of forms, from capacity development and knowledge-sharing to implementing projects that help people living in food-insecure areas to prepare for climate shocks.

The partnership has created several training programs which address current and emerging threats, including the In-Service Applied Veterinary Epidemiology (ISAVET) programme. Developed by FAO and Texas A&M’s Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD), the programme trains veterinarians from a number of African countries to combat threats of animal origin. 

Responding to a need for quality management systems in laboratories, FAO and Texas A&M collaborated with the Office of the Texas State Chemist Laboratory Quality Systems to develop a course on laboratory quality management and international standards, which has trained more than 100 graduates and professionals from 47 countries since it began in 2013. 

Among its academic initiatives, the partnership also created a series of webinars for Texas A&M students, which featured FAO experts and addressed topics such as the SDGs, the humanitarian-development nexus and food crises.

Since 2016, FAO and Texas A&M, in coordination with the Kenya National Drought Authority, developed and deployed the Predictive Livestock Early Warning System throughout several regions in Kenya, which uses a statistical forecasting methodology to generate forecast forage conditions. By simulating livestock species preference for forage in a competitive environment, using near real-time and historical climate data, the system can provide forecasts up to six months in advance. The Forage Condition Index, a web-based support tool, provides forage quantity assessments, short and long-term forecasting of forage, livestock water status, and livestock market information allowing stakeholders to examine risk and identify potential trade-offs and responses associated with drought and changing climate. 

Texas A&M also works with FAO to support value chain development, most recently participating in dialogues with local private sector entities in Armenia and Georgia with the aim to strengthen the dairy value chain. 

“Working together, FAO and Texas A&M have been able to ensure that there is greater access to knowledge and expertise in areas of animal health and production, including transboundary diseases, increasing resiliency in Africa for improved livestock management, and sustainable agriculture water usage,” said Daniel Gustafson, FAO’s Deputy Director-General (Programmes). “This is a prime example of how, working in partnership, we can make progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Going forward, the partnership will continue to focus on issues of sustainable crop and livestock production and protection, land and water management, animal and veterinary public health, early warning and risk management systems, agribusiness development and on strengthening food-based systems.

“We are committed to solving challenges facing agriculture in diverse settings with global impact,” said Dr. Patrick Stover, vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences at Texas A&M AgriLife and director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research. “Our long-standing partnership with FAO has generated numerous multidisciplinary collaborations to address real-world challenges in sustainable crop and livestock production, environmental stewardship, animal and veterinary public health, early warning and risk management systems, agribusiness development, and the development of safe, healthy and nutritious food systems.  Advances in these areas are essential for sustainable human and planetary health and well-being.” 

Bukar Tijani, FAO’s Assistant Director-General for the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department, welcomed the next phase of the partnership as “an opportunity to equip the next generation with the tools and expertise needed to effectively confront threats to plant and animal health and to sustainably manage it.”

During the next five years, FAO and Texas A&M will work together to develop, among other things, training and curricula which address issues of animal health, production and transboundary diseases, including inputs from  the European Commission for the control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease Real-Time Training course. The partnership also intends to build resilience through the design of protocols and procedures and early warning systems for forage and water availability, and to improve land and water management through knowledge and experience sharing on issues of agricultural water use and transboundary ground water systems.