In November 2014, representatives of Florida A&M’s Sustainability Institute traveled to India to partner with the country’s premier organization for sustainability and climate change. The National Council for Climate Change and Sustainable Development (NCCSD) is an organization founded on facilitating action and implementing activities that are important to sustainable development while mainstreaming agriculture as a mitigation option.
The partnership began at an international conference on climate justice initiatives, where FAMU and NCCSD discovered mutual objectives. This led up to the joint signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between FAMU’s Sustainability Institute and the NCCSD.
Among the signatories of the MOU from the NCCSD is Dr. Kirit Shelat, the organization's executive chairman. Dr. Shelat has been involved in agriculture for more than 40 years, serving as the principal secretary of agriculture and cooperation department under the government of Gujarat, India. During this time he has formulated and implemented related policies, including a focus on benefiting poor families, farmers and entrepreneurs through planning for integrated development.
According to Shelat, during his tenure, Indian agriculture has seen improvements such as a 2%-3% increase in sustainable agriculture growth. Many have also been brought out of poverty, and research has been validated, leading to a rise in productivity. However, there have been inequalities in some areas. “There is unequal growth between agriculture and other sectors like services and manufacturing; the latter have an average growth of 8% - 10%, which is increasing rural and urban divide,” said Shelat.
Furthermore, there is unequal growth between farmers at the local level, even in a village with the same resources. Where one can make profits, the other can fail. “Adverse impacts of climate change pushes even successful farmers back to poverty,” Shelat continued.
FAMU’s collaboration with organizations such as NCCSD promotes the search for solutions together. “Climates do not deal with boundaries, so for big global issues, we need to have global collaboration where scientists from FAMU are working with scientists from Europe, Asia, and Africa,” explains FAMU’s Dr. Odemari Mbuya.
Mbuya is the faculty director of the Sustainability Institute, director of the Florida Climate Institute at FAMU and the interim director of the Center for Water and Air Quality. He teaches Research Methods/Biostatistics and Plant, Soil and Water Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Food Siences. Dr. Mbuya holds an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Florida and a Bachelor’s degree in Crop Science from Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania. His research interest focuses on phytoremediation, water resources (quantity and quality), watershed processes and computer simulation modeling.
According to Mbuya, it is not just for research purposes that FAMU is collaborating with the NCCSD; the cultural exchange is just as important. “We are all one on this planet. We can communicate with India, China, Tanzania, and discuss the interests of United States as they discuss the interests of their country,” Mbuya explained.
This collaboration will allow FAMU to perform several tasks beneficial to Indian agriculture. “FAMU can make available appropriate technology related to Climate Smart Agriculture and Smart City Management for its replication in India,” said Shelat. FAMU will also be associated with its dissemination in other developing countries. FAMU has other MOUs with other universities and organizations abroad including, but not limited to, The University of Rwanda, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences.
In the first phase of work, FAMU may make available technologies that have been developed for salinity resistant crop, saline water use and land management, and bio-technology for agriculture and livestock.
Mbuya expounds on the importance of having a survival strategy in today’s bio-environment. “We need to work together, which is the purpose of these MOUs. We can work with people in these places and have much more control. We want to anticipate adverse effects of current practices, envision how it will be in Florida in 50 years. We should be able to predict so that we can plan.”
The MOU with India’s NCCSD is one facet of Florida A&M University's continuing mission to advance research and teaching targeted at real-world solutions to societal challenges. The Sustainability Institute was created by President Elmira Mangum in particular to advance the research, teaching and application of sustainable solutions at the campus, regional and global level.