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Feature   |  Winter 2007

Purdue precedent

Taking on a rebuilding project that literally starts from the ground up in a country ravaged by war may appear to be a leap of faith, but Jess Lowenberg-DeBoer, director of Purdue University's Office of International Programs in Agriculture, has reason to be optimistic.

Federal University of Vicosa, Brazil

"In many ways, our relationship with Kabul University parallels our work at the Federal University of Vicosa in Brazil in the 1950s and '60s," Lowenberg-DeBoer says. "Long-term, full-scale institution building is something we know how to do and do well."

The U.S. Agency for International Development-sponsored Purdue project started in 1954 and lasted for more than 20 years. The bond between Vicosa, now one of the leading international schools of agriculture, and Purdue has lasted for a half century. The two now collaborate as peer institutions, and many Vicosa faculty hold advanced degrees from Purdue. "Purdue is still very well known there," says Lowenberg-DeBoer, who recently lectured at Vicosa. "There is even a Purdue street on campus."


One of the major collaborative developments occurred during the late 1960s, when Purdue agricultural engineers helped introduce new methods for post-harvest grain storage. The joint research enabled producers to store grain crops in bulk in steel bins rather than in bags.

Agricultural economist George Patrick was one of the many faculty who taught at Vicosa as a visiting professor. "There was a tremendous amount of growth going on when I arrived," recalls Patrick, who was there from 1967-69. "During that time, about 20 (Purdue Agriculture) professors were in residence. Many stayed for four years or even longer. The number of resources that Purdue devoted to Brazil was amazing."

Patrick, who directed graduate student research at Vicosa and conducted research for his dissertation, says the Brazilian people were very aware of the help they received from Purdue. "The students were very eager," he says. "When I look back on that period of time, I feel I was making a contribution. Purdue was making a difference, and I had a small part in it."


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