Dr. J. Scott Angle

Training programs helping to meet the challenges of global food security

Dr. J. Scott Angle, President and CEO of the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), speaks to IFA about IFDC’s international training programs and their plans for 2017.

IFA: Can you describe some of IFDC’s various international training programs and how they help meet the challenges of global food security?
Dr. J. S. Angle
: Training is an integral component of IFDC’s mission to increase global food security. We currently carry out two branches of training activities: field training through our projects and professional training workshops.

IFDC takes a comprehensive approach to field training. As it is commonly said, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so we work to strengthen all links in the agricultural chain. This includes building the capabilities of not only farmers but input producers and suppliers, agro-dealers, policymakers, and government representatives, among others. In 2015, our field projects in Africa and Asia trained nearly 900,000 individuals, 36 percent of whom were women, thanks to our cascading training-of-trainers approach. Agricultural development is often a long-term endeavor, and human capacity building is essential to accomplishing our goals.

IFDC has been holding international training programs since our founding in 1974. Since then we have held more than 700 formal workshops, study tours, and training programs, and since 2001, we have partnered with IFA to host several specifically for professionals in the fertilizer industry. Our specialized programs are geared toward strengthening the skills of fertilizer industry professionals and focus on technology transfer along the entire agricultural value chain. These programs include presentations given by staff from IFDC and other partner organizations, field trips to relevant locations, and built-in networking time to connect with individuals from organizations around the world. Since IFDC has been implementing professional trainings, we have served more than 11,000 participants from 150 nations. While each attendee has a unique experience, we craft both theoretical and practical takeaways. Many have contacted us years after their training experience to let us know the materials and knowledge are still relevant to their everyday work.

IFA: How is the training implemented?
Dr. J. S. Angle
: Most, if not all, of IFDC’s field programs include training components. Each project has varying goals and objectives, so training is tailored to those. For example, our USAID-funded West Africa Fertilizer Program’s (WAFP) objective is to improve the supply and distribution of appropriate and affordable fertilizers in West Africa. For this project, training looks more like working with agro-dealers to sell appropriate inputs to farmers in affordable bag sizes. For another project, such as our Scaling Up Fertilizer Deep Placement and Microdosing Technologies in Mali (FDP MD) project, we work with partners to train farmers to use improved fertilizer technologies to increase their cereal yields. So, each project’s goals require varying training approaches.

IFA: What are IFDC’s strategic plans for 2017?
Dr. J. S. Angle
: A strategic plan is currently under development. Development began with listening sessions around the world, hearing from elected officials, private companies, NGOs, farmers, and anyone else with an interest in what we do. The final plan will be rolled out in mid-2017. However, there are several elements that we know will be in the plan.

First, IFDC needs to enhance its scientific capacity. Traditionally, IFDC has been the source of new and novel ideas in the fertilizer industry. This capacity has eroded over the years, but we aim to invigorate both our basic and applied scientific abilities.

Second, we plan to contribute to the training of a new generation of professionals with expertise in fertilizers and soil fertility. All segments of the industry complain that they are having trouble hiring employees who have a background in these areas. Whether we are educating high school students through work at our headquarters or helping to establish a new master’s degree in Fertilizer Science and Technology at an international university, IFDC will be an important player in workforce preparation.

Last, we know we need to improve our ability to tell the message of the good work done at IFDC. In such a large organization, it is not easy to summarize the impact of our work in ways that are interesting to those who support our efforts. This is referred to as “Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning” (MEL). How do we tell the story of literally millions of farmers whose lives are better because of programs delivered by IFDC and our partners? We hope to become a model and leader in this area.

IFA: Is there a particular region or country-focus for 2017?
Dr. J. S. Angle
: Currently, IFDC focuses primarily on Africa, and this will continue. Africa is where the greatest needs and opportunities exist. Africa currently uses only about 10 percent of the nutrients needed to bring yields up to the world average. Where our programs have been implemented, it is not uncommon to see yields increase threefold, sometimes more. We currently implement other programs in Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Nepal. However, we believe needs and opportunities also exist in several areas of the world where IFDC has the capacity to improve agriculture. Southeast Asia represents an area where our expertise can support more efficient agriculture. The problems and needs are different from those in Africa, for example, often requiring different approaches to improve soil fertility with a focus on environmental quality. Haiti and several countries in Latin America can also greatly benefit from the technologies and information IFDC offers. We are currently exploring whether it makes sense for IFDC to initiate programs in these countries.

About Dr. J. S. Angle:

Dr. J. Scott Angle is president and CEO of the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), a public-international organization providing solutions to alleviate global hunger and poverty through the promotion of sound agricultural technologies, economic development, and self-sufficiency.