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UNL hosts international water officials

Dan Snow, director of services at UNL's Water Sciences Laboratory, discusses a nitrogen gas mass spectromenter with members of the Founders Committee on March 21.
Dan Snow, director of services at UNL's Water Sciences Laboratory, discusses a nitrogen gas mass spectromenter with members of the Founders Committee on March 21.

International authorities are discussing ways to increase food production and improve water management in the Middle East and North Africa during a visit to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln this week.

The Founders Committee of the Middle East and North Africa Network of Water Centers of Excellence have come to UNL for the discussions after meetings in Washington, D.C. UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman is one of seven members of the Founders Committee.

“The founding committee has quickly become a very collegial and thoughtful group, they are very open and passionate about improving the use of water resources on their region,” Perlman said. “I am honored to be associated with this effort and to explore how the Water for Food Institute at the University can contribute to their success. “

In February 2012, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah and University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken signed a memorandum of understanding to expand research and development capacities focused on water and food in the Middle East and North Africa working through the newly established Water Centers of Excellence. The Founders Committee is the governing body charged with implementing the centers network.

The water center network, known as MENA NWC, links technical institutions across the Middle East and north Africa with one another and also with U.S. institutions -- such as the University of Nebraska’s Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute -- to address water challenges confronting the region. It helps build and exchange regional science and technology capacity to improve water planning and management, expand water supply, manage demand and increase efficient and productive use of water.

Other members of the Founders Committee are Manar Fayyad, University of Jordan; Samir Ben Said, Director of the International Research and Training Institute of the National Office of Potable Water in Morocco; Muwaffaq Saqqar, Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development in Kuwait; Thameur Chaibi, Director of the Rural Engineering Department at the National Research Institute for Rural Engineering, Water and Forestry in Tunisia; Hady Amr, USAID deputy assistant administrator for the Middle East; Jill Shaunfield, Science and Technology Policy Advisor for the U.S. Department of State's Bureau for Near Eastern Affairs.

Also accompanying the group are John Wilson of USAID and Peter Reiss of Development Alternatives International.

The NU-USAID partnership focuses on reducing the use of water in agriculture while sustainably maintaining crop yields. Through collaborative research, education, and outreach programs, working with the NU Water for Food Institute, USAID and NU will focus on irrigation, groundwater management, rain-fed agriculture, drought risk assessment and mitigation that support of the Middle East and North Africa Water Centers of Excellence.

-- Monica Norby, Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute