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African group tours UGA, agricultural facilities

By Brad Haire
University of Georgia

Representatives of nine African countries toured University of Georgia research facilities and commercial farms April 26-29. They wanted to learn more about Georgia agriculture and investigate potential partnerships in the state.

The delegation included the minister of agriculture from Angola and Washington-based ambassadors from Senegal, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Mauritius and Mozambique. Tim Williams, a researcher with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, organized the tour.

"There was intense interest to come and see what is happening in Georgia," said Williams, who also coordinates the Peanut Collaborative Research Support Program at UGA.

Poverty is a problem for many of these countries, he said. For some, as much as 95 percent of the population survives solely on 1 to 2 acres of land. Many live on $2 per day, he said.

"You would have to go back to the days of sharecropping in the United States to get an idea of how farming is done in some of these countries," Williams said.

Agricultural tour

The delegation toured an egg processing operation in Jasper County and a broiler facility in Oglethorpe County in northeast Georgia.

They visited a UGA broiler microprocessing facility in Athens, Ga. It matches industry standards and provides a place for students to learn all areas of poultry processing. They work to develop new poultry food products there, too.

"The delegation wished to see and hear about poultry in Georgia because they knew it was important in the state and that it was an efficient and wholesome protein source that might help the food and nutrition situation in their countries," said Mike Lacy, head of the CAES poultry science department.

The delegation went to the UGA campus in Griffin, Ga., to learn about food science research and about Peanut CRSP projects to combat aflatoxin, a group of potentially deadly toxins produced by fungi. It can appear in peanuts, corn and other crops.

"Aflatoxin exposure is a serious problem for many developing countries," Williams said.

In south Georgia, the delegation toured new climate-controlled peanut warehouses in Wilcox County. And on the UGA campus in Tifton, Ga., they learned how peanuts, cotton and vegetables are grown and marketed in Georgia.

Productive relations

Mozambique Ambassador Armando Panguene wants to develop relationships between his country and learning institutions across the United States. He hopes this will help his country grow. About 80 percent of the population there works on farms.

Mozambique farmers, he said, need to learn how to increase their production. But this will depend on developing new markets. "The markets for our production are very limited," he said.

Mozambique has traditionally been linked to Europe, Panguene said. "But now the U.S. is a new market we want to explore."

"If we can work and trade with these countries and help them develop," Williams said, "it would benefit all by making these countries less dependent on food assistance. ... And there is much we can learn from them."

UGA, the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service sponsored the diplomats' visit.

(Brad Haire is the former news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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