Saturday, February 19, 2011

Connecting Egyptian current events to agriculture

Yesterday I attended a current events session on campus about Egypt.  It was a discussion led by two professors, one who had lived in Egypt for 30 years and one who I believe was born there.  At first, much of the discussion focused on their thoughts of the Egyptian government and the protests, but it moved to talk of Egypt's economy and culture in general and agriculture was brought into the conversation.

One professor discussed how Egypt used to be known for its agriculture and now they are one of the largest importers of wheat in the world.  There were several agricultural professors and students in the room, but most in attendance were not directly involved with agriculture so it was interesting to hear their thoughts.  A student next to me mentioned how the U.S. used to have a much larger percentage of its population directly involved in agriculture and now we have a smaller percentage feeding more people.  Egypt has not kept up with the technological advances in agriculture to match their growing population so they have to import much of their food.

Youssef, one of the professors directing the session, emphasized the importance of investing in infrastructure and technology rather than military equipment.  One attendee mentioned that the U.S. gives a lot of aid to Egypt but that it is primarily in the form of military aid and Youssef did not think that was the way to help a country prosper.  Investing in technology in agriculture would help Egypt and they could grow more food on their own.

One of the points that really hit me during this session was when Youssef mentioned that fewer Egyptians are going into farming.  His grandparents farmed but nobody took it over and many farms are rented out or sold because so many farm kids choose to go into education instead.  I live on a dairy farm that will probably have no one to take it over, so I completely understood what he was talking about.  It was so interesting to see how our agricultural systems are so different and yet alike in some ways.

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