Kosovo Exchange enters Second Year
With working relationships established, logistics ironed out, and the first round of cross-cultural training opportunities under its belt, CAHFS is entering the second year of a four-year project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and sponsored by World Learning aimed at building educational capacity at the Faculty of Agriculture and Veterinary, University of Prishtina in Kosovo. Ahead is a busy year filled with additional opportunities to share One Health educational and training principles and practice as the Eastern European country works to build out its capacity to provide healthy, safe food to citizens who are still feeling repercussions from the war that engulfed it in the late 1990s.
“It’s been a relationship-building year for the partnership,” says principal investigator Dr. Karin Hamilton. Hamilton took over as investigator of the partnership late last year from founding investigator Dr. Mac Farnham, who left the University.
The exchange, launched in March 2015 between the University of Minnesota and the UP Faculty of Agriculture, is part of a Transformational Leadership Project funded by USAID and run by World Learning to enhance curriculum, pedagogy and research programs at UP. Some 80 percent of food consumed in Kosovo is imported, so there is a strong desire to increase the country’s capacity to produce quality, safe food that can compete for citizens’ food budget. CAHFS is one of several University of Minnesota entities involved in the program; the others include Extension and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences.
According to Hamilton, year one of the project focused on cementing the personnel, developing relationships, and fine-tuning program goals and logistics of the partnership with an initial focus on veterinary aspects through a faculty exchange. CAHFS faculty traveled to Kosovo in April, July, and November 2015 to meet university partners, get to know government and industry players in Kosovo’s food animal sector, assess educational needs, provide training, and begin to formulate and carry out specific plans to meet the identified needs. Specific activities included holding a workshop on active learning, lecturing on animal health and food safety topics, introducing the University of Minnesota Extension model, and meeting with representatives from the Kosovo Ministry of Agriculture and its national Agency for Food and Veterinary. In turn, two DVM faculty from Kosovo came to the University of Minnesota in August for a 10-week faculty development fellowship, where they took a food production and policy course, met with faculty, observed and participated in various methods of teaching (seminars, classes in the active learning classroom, rounds, etc.), worked with pathologists, and explored opportunities for joint research projects.
One idea that has emerged so far, says Hamilton, is the development of an interdisciplinary institute at UP based on the CAHFS and Veterinary Diagnostic Lab models that would bring together UP faculty to conduct training, research and service programs revolving around animal and plant health and food safety. “UP FAV currently has no clinic or collaborative center, rather individuals doing research with or providing service to community partners,” she says. “An institute would allow professors to share scarce laboratory equipment, encourage collaboration in training and research, and make it easier to work with industry, government, and community stakeholders to create change.”
The second year of the program will have a strong focus on food technology, with UP FAV’s new dean and vice dean of education visiting Minnesota in August to learn more about the CAHFS and VDL model, and three UP FAV junior faculty from multiple departments doing faculty development fellowships under the guidance of CAHFS and affiliated programs. In addition, University of Minnesota faculty will travel to Kosovo in the fall to help with emerging educational and service approaches and to teach a module in UP FAV’s new masters in food technology degree program. Project leads are also looking at providing some capacity development in small animal veterinary medicine, including training in use of inhalant anesthesia and X-ray equipment. Second-year plans also include strategizing for the continuation of the partnership in to another two years.
“They have a lot of challenges due to very limited resources,” Hamilton says. “Most of the professors I met have trained in the U.S. or Europe, but when they get back to Kosovo they find themselves very resource limited. There is a lot of opportunity for development.”
Image: Dr. Karin Hamilton (UMN- Vet Med), Professor Afrim Hamidi (UP Vet Med), Dr. David Baumler (UMN - Food Science) and Professor Salih Salihu (UP - Plant Protection).
Story by Mary Hoff