United States ofÂ Americaâ€™s undersecretary for political affairs, Wendy Sherman, was in Malawi last month. Apart from meeting several political figures, she also addressed students at Bunda College in Lilongwe, one of the University of Malawiâ€™s constituent colleges.
The US government played a critical role in the establishment of the college, providing grants worth about $7 million (about K1.7 billion) between 1966 and 1982.
â€œThe United States people, through the US Agency for International Development [USAID], supported the construction of much of the Bunda College that we see around us today. I must say that this infrastructure has stood the test of time very well,â€ said Sherman.
She said the US views Bunda College as one of the greatest successes in the 50 years of their governmentâ€™s cooperation with Malawi.
Apart from supporting the collegeâ€™s construction, the US government has also trained Malawians, including staff of the college.
â€œI am pleased to hear that almost half of Bundaâ€™s faculty received post-graduate training at American Land Grant universities, including Professor Moses Kwapata, a proud alumnus of the University of California-Riverside,â€ Sherman added.
Summing up part ofÂ the assistance from the US, Bunda College principal Prof. Kwapata said the college has benefited from staff and infrastructure development, equipment, books, journals, technical support of faculty members from American universities who assisted in curriculum development, teaching, research and outreach programmes.
â€œSome of the notable scholars included Professor Pinney, Lawson and Ferguson,â€ said Kwapata.
Through support from the US government, the college has expanded from two lecturers to the current 150 who belong to three faculties of Agriculture, Environmental Sciences and Development Studies. The college has 12 academic departments, a research centre and a â€œfairly well-stockedâ€ library and commercial farmâ€”where agricultural best practices are demonstrated to both students and community.
Kwapata said this expansion has allowed the college to offer about 16 undergraduate programmes, 14 masterâ€™s and five doctorate programmes in all the areas of agriculture, natural resources and environment.
The first intake in 1965 had 35 students and now it is at 2 000, out of which 40 percent are females.
â€œFurthermore, we have students from neighbouring countries such as Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya, mostly taking postgraduate studies,â€ explained Kwapata.
Bunda College has also trained over 90 percent of senior agriculture officers working in government and the private sector, according to Kwapata.
As such, this institution, borne out of the American peopleâ€™s support has contributed, and continues to contribute, to improved food security and income generation in Malawi, where agriculture is the backbone of the economy.
Building on this success, the US government is supporting the Feed the Future Initiative, a new project that will see the college enhance the importance of building institutional capacity and agriculture education to promote future development.
Feed the Future is President Barack Obamaâ€™s signature initiative focusing on supporting agriculture.
â€œIn Malawi, that means deepening our relationship with Bunda College. USAID is currently supporting several partnerships here that support our Feed the Future goals, including programmes with the departments of Home Economics, Agriculture, Applied Economics and Natural Resources Management,â€ said Sherman.
She gave the example of a programme where Tufts University of the US is assisting Bunda College to develop a dietetics programme which will increase understanding about the relationship of diet to health and disease.
This programme is helping to update the nutrition curriculum at the college and is also providing resources for staff development and research.
Sherman said the US government hopes to extend its collaboration to new areas such as agriculture extension, trilateral cooperation, and greater support for agriculture research, including biotechnology.
â€œI encourage the school to maintain its high quality of instruction while expanding access for Malawiâ€™s growing population,â€ said Sherman