Taking part in WHEAT training A professor's Dream

Visiting The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) had always been a dream of Daisy Basandrai.

Basandrai spent her career at the Himachal Pradesh Agricultural University in Northern India researching lentil rusts and diseases, when it became clear there was a need for wheat researchers at the university; an opportunity arose for Basandrai to follow her true passion, wheat.

In the spring of 2015 Basandrai was on a plane to Mexico.

Basandrai was one of 29 participating in the Basic Wheat Improvement Course Program (BWIC) at CIMMYT. BWIC is a three-month intensive program at the Campo Experimental Norman E. Borlaug in Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, Mexico that targets young and mid-career scientists from across the globe, focusing on applied breeding techniques in the field.

The 2015 Basic Wheat Improvement Course trainees in Ciudad Obregón.

In 2015, 29 trainees from Afghanistan, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, India, Japan, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Sudan, Tunisia, and the USA attended the course, which distributes equal time among field, lab and classroom activities.

Over the years, an increase in gender equality among trainees has become apparent. Courses have been restructured to encourage female participation by adjusting courses and accommodating for those who are unable to stay for extended periods. During the Global Wheat Program Visitor's Week, female participants of the BWIC joined CIMMYT staff and Jeannie Borlaug, daughter of former CIMMYT wheat breeder and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Norman Borlaug, for a meeting on "Women in Agriculture." The discussion focused on issues women in science face everyday as well as triumphs and outcomes.

“When I arrived at the course, the first thing Amor Yahyaoui said to me was, I know you are a professor at home, but here everyone is a student,” said Basandrai. “That was the most important piece of advice I could have received. I put being a professor aside, and I became a student again.”

The BWIC has benefited national research programs since its inception. The increasing number of wheat scientists in major wheat producing countries reflects the great need and interest of national programs in training young scientists. One of the most frequent requests from countries and national programs is for more trained scientists.

The training program has helped form positive bonds between CIMMYT and the trainees’ countries of origin. Course alumni have gone on to lead national programs, receive advanced degrees and contribute nationally and internationally to wheat improvement.

“I think the most important part of this course, especially coming from India, was coming to Mexico and researching and studying in the same fields as Norman Borlaug did when the Green Revolution began,” explained Basandrai.

Daisy Basandrai and fellow trainee Hoda Moustafa El Gharabawy observing plots at CENEB in Obregon.

Over the years, a clear increase in training is evident as well as support for advanced degree students, a trend partially attributable to WHEAT investments in learning and capacity development in developing countries. This year was a peak year for training, a trend expected to continue in 2016 and subsequent years during WHEAT Phase II.

In 2015 along with the 29 participants of the BWIC, 17,000 farmers and scientists took part in nearly 400 regional training events in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Mexico, Tunisia, Uruguay, China, Ethiopia, India, Kenya and Nepal, organized by different projects across WHEAT. They included field days, workshops and intensive training courses in the areas of sustainable intensification, breeding/seed systems and socioeconomics research.

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