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By Matt Hayes
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  • Department of Global Development
  • Agriculture
  • Global Development
  • Crops

A new online course on resilience in agriculture provides agricultural professionals from across the globe with cutting-edge insights into one of the most critical interdisciplinary topics in crop improvement.

The free course from the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement (ILCI) opens opportunities for scientists and agricultural development professionals to blend technical skills with the most advanced findings in social sciences. The “Resilience in Agriculture” course is one of four trainings that will provide in-depth lessons on four core cross-cutting themes: gender equality, youth engagement and nutrition security.

The trainings are geared to scientists in National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs) and ILCI’s Centers of Innovations in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. Housed in ILCI’s newly launched multidisciplinary learning hub, the series – as well additional courses in technical crop improvement skills, such as genomics – is open to the public at no cost.

The series was proposed in response to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to Elisabeth Garner, ILCI’s cross-cutting themes co-lead and postdoctoral associate at Cornell University. “We decided to build an online curriculum to support our international network of partners since we couldn’t be there in person,” she said. “The result is an opportunity to reach an even broader audience.”

The training module focused on resilience in agriculture is now available. Created by ILCI partners at Cultural Practice, LLC, it provides an in-depth overview of the concept and application of resilience in agriculture for crop improvement, according to Deborah Rubin, co-director of Cultural Practice, LLC and cross-cutting themes co-lead at ILCI.

“These modules illustrate the connections between agricultural science and social science approaches,” Rubin said. “By making that connection, we can achieve a better understanding of key consumer preferences to ultimately strengthen adoption of improved varieties.”

The online trainings allow learners to delve into the topics at their own pace. The resilience training module is divided into four hourlong sessions, each aligned to four course learning objectives. Featuring interactive learning exercises, videos and in-depth tutorials, the online course enables the learner to understand basic concepts, definitions, application and measurement of resilience in agriculture for crop improvement, while also providing an opportunity for reflection on their own work.

“Resilience is a critical component of agriculture and crop improvement, but it doesn’t operate in isolation,” said Sarah Eissler, senior research associate at Cultural Practice and lead curriculum developer for the resilience course. “The course looks at resilience in relation to cross-cutting themes of gender equality, nutrition security, and youth engagement.”

“At ILCI, we are dedicated to listening to our national partners and working with them to integrate tools, technologies and methods. Ultimately, we are all working together to make food more accessible, reliable, and responsive to diverse needs around the globe,” said ILCI director Stephen Kresovich, professor in Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science. “This training series will prepare scientists to prioritize cross-cutting themes as they develop product breeding profiles.”

Based at the Department of Global Development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement partners with scientists and stakeholders around the globe to co-develop tools, technologies and methods in crop improvement that address local concerns and focus on community impact.

Matt Hayes is director for communications for Global Development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

This story first appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

Header image: A scientist inspects maize in a research field in Ghana. Photo by Matt Hayes

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