What do you do when 2 billion people show up for dinner?
This is one of the challenging questions Ajit Srivastava, co-director of the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation, or GCFSI, and department chair of the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, posed to John Bonnell.
“He phrases that in a way to show population growth and urbanization,” said Bonnell, a doctoral student and contributor to the GCFSI. “Specifically, how populations are not only growing, but they are moving to urban areas (and the) challenges around feeding urban areas (as a) trend; MSU’s program is based on these global trends.”
MSU was chosen to be one of seven national and international universities to be a part of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s, or USAID, Higher Education Solutions Network. MSU expects to receive almost $25 million during the next five years, Srivastava said.
GCFSI’s focus will be on food consumption and production, looking at three mega-trends: urbanization of food systems, population growth and a lack of skills in the agricultural workforce, Srivastava said.
GCFSI is a collaboration among faculty, administrators and students from many departments and colleges at MSU, said Jeff Riedinger, dean of International Studies and Programs.
Riedinger said a part of the Higher Education Solutions Network is for the universities to help and be connected to USAID.
“(USAID) sees this not simply as a vehicle to access the best science and technology at U.S. universities and partners, but also as a way to involve students in the STEM disciplines or fields in higher education — science, technology, English and math,” Riedinger said.
Srivastava said GCFSI has three main goals: think globally, which involves working with partner institutions, to create a data analysis lab to understand trends and to develop solutions to the problems at hand, which might involve awarding grants for research.
Srivastava said students are a major part of the GCFSI and the Higher Education Solutions Network’s overall efforts.
“One of the goals is to develop future international development professionals,” Srivastava said
Bonnell said he is looking forward to working with students from other universities, especially from Africa, and learning about the work they are doing to address global development issues.
“I’m excited to be involved with people who are applying international development in new ways,” Bonnell said.
“For quite a while, international development was done by Westerners for poor countries, and that seems to not (work). The next step is doing it by a developing world.”