URI to lead USDA’s West Africa Evaluation Program, Center of Excellence training facility

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KINGSTON, R.I. – June 11, 2014 – The United States Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agriculture Service has selected the University of Rhode Island to lead a five-year, $6.5 million program in West Africa.

The Coastal Resources Center at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography will have administrative and technical responsibilities for implementing the West Africa ASSESS program (Analytical Support Services and Evaluations for Sustainable Systems in Agriculture, Environment and Trade). The grant will engage URI and partner organizations in evaluating a diverse array of economic growth programs funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development in up to 21 countries in West Africa.

According to Karen Kent, co-leader of the ASSESS program, the projects being evaluated include agriculture and trade programs to improve household food security and to reduce poverty through value added exports, energy infrastructure and efficiency initiatives, and environmental protection and conservation efforts, among many others. Some of the programs to be evaluated have not yet been developed.

“USAID funds a huge range of different projects designed to support these developing countries, and it’s important that those programs are methodically evaluated for their effectiveness so the agency knows its support is designed and executed well,” Kent said.

The grant will also provide training and capacity building to universities and agencies in West Africa so those institutions can evaluate the programs themselves in the future.

The funding creates a consortium of partners to conduct the evaluations and trainings, including several units at URI – the Graduate School of Oceanography, the College of the Environment and Life Sciences, the College of Business Administration and the International Engineering Program – as well as Delaware State University and universities in Africa such as the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana.

“We are delighted that the USDA has chosen URI to lead this important program in West Africa and for the Coastal Resources Center to be responsible for the implementation of this program,” said GSO Dean Bruce Corliss. “This grant will be a continuation of a long record of outreach that CRC has established in promoting sustainability in Africa.”

Richard C. Rhodes, associate dean of the College of the Environment and Life Sciences and co-leader of the ASSESS program, noted: “This unique consortium brings together the best and brightest: the international experience of CRC and the discipline specific technical expertise of the colleges of the University of Rhode Island and Delaware State University.” Rhodes will draw upon numerous people from URI to provide their expertise in support of the grant’s objectives.

Funding from the grant will also be used to establish a USAID Centre of Excellence training facility in Accra, Ghana, modeled after similar training facilities in Arlington, Va. and Bangladesh. The training center will be outfitted with technology for computer learning and webinars so USAID and affiliated agencies can offer a variety of training programs.

“We’ll be responsible for outfitting, staffing and operating the center,” Kent said. “The staff will work with USAID to program trainings to meet the high demand for quality, state of the art training events.”