The Norman E. Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program (Borlaug LEAP) was created in 2005. The program supports the US commitment to strengthening global food security.
In June of 2003, then Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman hosted an international Ministerial Conference and Expo on Agricultural Science and Technology in Sacramento, California. Delegates from 117 nations participated in the event. United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State jointly sponsored the event with United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The conference focused on the critical role science and technology can play in raising agricultural productivity in developing countries. Dr. Norman Borlaug gave the keynote address.
In his keynote address, Dr. Borlaug challenged government leaders to commit to accelerating the transfer and adaptation of technologies in the developing world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Asia. He shared his vision of countries sharing technologies, either currently available or far along in the research pipeline, that could eventually help to feed 10 billion people. He reminded the conference participants that Pakistan became self-sufficient in wheat production through education and training after their scientists learned how to double their wheat production. After receiving training in higher-yield technologies, India became self-sufficient in the production of both wheat and rice and even became an exporter in 1982.
To support this vision, USDA and USAID established the Norman E. Borlaug International Science and Technology Fellowship Program. The program was created to educate and train students, researchers, policymakers, scientists, and faculty members from developing countries, in the latest science and agricultural technologies. Two programs were created -- a short-term program, funded by US Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA-FAS) and a long-term program, funded by US Agency for International Development (USAID) through a grant to the University of California, Davis. The Borlaug LEAP (Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program) became the long-term program.
In November 2004, representatives of the USAID, USDA, Texas A&M University, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the University of California, Davis met with Dr. Borlaug on the Texas A&M campus to create and design the Norman E. Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program (Borlaug LEAP).
During Dr. Borlaug’s illustrious career he was influenced by his experiences at both land grant universities and international agricultural research centers such as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Consortium (CGIAR Consortium). He saw international interaction as essential to “keeping scientists alive and innovative”. He envisioned a long-term program for thesis research fellows, “bright young scientists” working towards a graduate degree. He also saw mentoring and leadership as key components of the program.
With Dr. Borlaug’s guidance, values and principles, the Borlaug LEAP was established with the aim to “develop a new cadre of scientific leaders to mentor a new generation of agriculture scientists and educators who can sustain scientific innovation for development.”
The first Borlaug LEAP Fellows were selected in 2005. Since then, Borlaug LEAP Fellows have completed internships at all 15 CGIARs and over 30 US universities. They represent 26 different countries (94% of Fellows are from sub-Saharan Africa) and 41% of the Fellows are women. The majority of the Borlaug LEAP Fellows (84%) have pursued PhD degrees. The thesis topics range from soil science to human nutrition to agricultural economics.
Announced in June 2011, USAID renewed its commitment to investing in the human and institutional capital base needed to promote agricultural sector innovation with the establishment of the Feed the Future’s Borlaug 21st Century Leadership Program. As part of this program, the Borlaug LEAP joins a suite of new and existing capacity activities focused on the development of future generations of agricultural researchers.