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AEC Impact: Developing a skilled agricultural workforce in Egypt

AEC professor emeritus works with Egyptian agricultural schools to improve agricultural work force, improve national economy

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Department of Agricultural Education and Communication (AEC) professor emeritus Dr. Kirby Barrick has partnered with Egyptian agricultural schools to improve existing agricultural programs, develop an improved agricultural work force, and ultimately, create a strong national economy. 

Barrick worked on three, unique projects designed to achieve this goal. These projects partnered with Egyptian agricultural universities and agricultural technical schools (comparable to vocational high schools) to develop curriculum, enhance teaching, provide student internships and assemble advisory councils.

“Much of Egypt consists of subsistence farming—growing one’s own food,” said Barrick. “Our goal with each of these projects was to develop highly skilled agricultural workers so that Egypt could grow and export crops to European and Middle Eastern markets and have money for inputs, including seed and fertilizer.”

Barrick explains that because Egypt is several time zones away from the United States, the country does not compete in the same markets as the U.S. Instead, Egypt primarily competes for trade with Europe and the Middle East. 

One of the three projects Barrick partnered with, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Agriculture Exports for Rural Income (AERI), worked with five “faculties” (commonly known as “colleges” in the U.S.) of agriculture in Upper Egypt. These faculties of agriculture reigned from Cairo UniversityFayoum University, Assiut University, Minia University and South Valley University.

Barrick used the train-the-trainer approach in workshops to educate faculty in the areas of agricultural curriculum development, instructional design, teaching enhancement, peer assessment and active learning. Once faculty were trained, faculty members from the original workshops were carefully selected to train additional faculty, while also being provided with the required instructional materials.

 “During this training, we conducted skill gap analyses to determine what skills students had versus what skills industry wanted them to have,” said Barrick. “We also worked with the faculty to help them develop student internships and advisory councils composed of industry members and university faculty.”

The additional two projects Barrick partnered with, USAID Value-Chain Training and SHOURA Foundation for Development, specifically worked with Egyptian agricultural technical schools. Value-Chain Training provided training in the areas of curriculum development and teaching enhancement, building advisory councils and supplying the schools with necessary teaching equipment, while SHOURA Foundation for Development worked heavily with developing student internships.

“When visiting these Egyptian agricultural technical schools, it was not uncommon for many classrooms to not have lights, chalk or even textbooks,” Barrick said. “One instructor was teaching her heart out, but had no textbooks whatsoever in her classroom. She had been teaching an entire year’s worth of curriculum using a 60-page booklet.”

Barrick’s projects worked to provide these schools with textbooks and proper teaching equipment, including overhead projectors and computers, while also demonstrating how to effectively use software such as PowerPoint for teaching enhancement. Specifically, a project was organized with University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) Ambassadors and faculty that sent $75,000 worth of textbooks to South Valley University, one of the five universities Barrick has partnered with.

Barrick used the same train-the-trainer approach used at the universities to train teachers at agricultural technical schools in the areas of active learning strategies, horticulture, agriculture mechanization, food science, agribusiness and animal science.

Student internships, provided in part by SHOURA’s Supervised Internship Program (SIP), were also developed with help from Barrick to provide students with practical training for agricultural jobs in the horticultural and livestock value chains. Internships provided students training in the areas of input supply, production, new irrigation systems, post-harvest handling, transportation, processing, marketing and exporting.

“As a result of our projects with agricultural technical programs, we have also developed advisory councils that got businesses and parents involved, developing a sense of community,” said Barrick. “We also developed student events in marketing, speaking and floral arrangement and founded the Future Farmers of Egypt.”

Barrick’s three projects in Egypt have proved to be highly impactful, reaching five universities, 130 technical schools, ~4000 instructors and 70,000+ students. In addition, the projects have resulted in eight refereed journal articles, 11 poster presentations and 36 invited presentations and workshops.

“The real goal in doing international development projects of this kind is to ensure that the people we are helping are better off after we visit them,” said Barrick. “If we see that they are better off, we know that our time there was well spent.”

Barrick has led two study abroad programs to Egypt and is planning a third program in 2018.  

Dr. Kirby Barrick has worked with Egyptian agricultural schools in order to develop a stronger, more skilled agricultural workforce in the country. With much of Egypt participating in subsistence farming, growing crops for personal consumption, having the necessary agricultural production skills has become highly important.