RDA exports agricultural knowhow
The state-run Rural Development Administration (RDA), which has accumulated extensive know-how on agricultural science and technology over the decades, has been sharing its knowledge and experience with the developing world.
It invites hundreds of government officials and students from dozens of developing countries in Asia, Africa and South America each year to offer them educational courses on agriculture. RDA has also dispatched its employees overseas to help developing nations boost agricultural production and protect crops from being damaged by pests or diseases.
The state-funded agricultural research institute has set up and operates Korea Project on International Agriculture (KOPIA) centers in 15 developing countries, such as Vietnam, Kenya, Brazil and Myanmar. It spent 7.3 billion won ($6.6 million) in 2012 to manage the centers in which 11 RDA employees each are stationed all year around.
They provide on-the-spot, tailor-made technical assistance, undertake joint research activities with host countries and offer training programs.
''We first established KOPIA centers in five nations in 2009. The number has increased to 15. Through the facility, we have given a wide range of technical assistance to farmers and agriculture industry officials there,’’ said Kim Eung-bon, director general of RDA’s technology cooperation bureau.
RDA undertook a project to boost vegetable production in Vietnam. In Algeria, local farmers learned from a KOPIA center about how to cultivate seed potatoes, while farmers in Kenya were taught to cultivate rice.
The institute has also launched two multilateral initiatives for Asia and Africa each in a bid to offer more locally-suited assistance. It is planning to kick off the third one for South American nations.
''We launched the Asian Food & Agriculture Cooperation Initiative (AFACI) in November 2009 in cooperation with 11 Asian countries in an attempt to boost agricultural productivity across the region. We have transferred techniques and know-how to our Asian counterparts to help them boost yields and achieve a sustainable agricultural industry,’’ Kim said.
In July 2010, RDA also started the Korea-Africa Food & Agriculture Cooperation Imitative (KAFACI) to further boost cooperation with 18 African nations.
The director general said Korea has emerged as a role model for many emerging economies across the globe for its successful rural development over the years, adding the institute has built a win-win system with its counterparts in developing nations.
RDA has also helped raise Korea’s profile abroad as a leading agricultural nation around the world, Kim said, stressing that it created a human network of government officials and opinion leaders in host nations, who view Korea favorably.
Nearly 43,000 people from 117 countries have participated in DA training programs from 1972 to 2012.
Those who took part in its educational courses have formed an alumni network after returning home. Alumni associations have been set up in seven countries, including Indonesia and Thailand.
''The favorable sentiment toward Korea will definitely help expand business opportunities for us and private agricultural firms here when securing overseas farms and exporting products. We will continue to boost cooperation with developing nations in the field of agriculture,’’ the director general said.