AgCenter provides educational opportunities for Haitian students

Johnny Morgan, LSU AgCenter
Haitian graduate students Jhonson Leonard and Marie Rachelle Lexidort share a moment with Jonathan Hubchen, assistant director of the LSU AgCenter Global Network. Both students will receive master’s degrees in agriculture from LSU in August through a United States Agency for International Development grant.

Two students from the Caribbean country of Haiti will soon have master’s degrees in agriculture from LSU.

The students have been in the country for the past two years as part of a United States Agency for International Development grant through the University of Florida.

Jhonson Leonard and Marie Rachelle Lexidort will graduate this August with degrees financed by the USAID- and Haiti-funded Support to Agricultural Research and Development project.

Leonard has been studying issues related to diseases in rice back in his country, and Lexidort has been looking at ways to control a weevil in sweet potatoes.

Both say the technology in their country does not reach the level of the U.S., but they are prepared to use what they have learned here to complement the technology that is available to them in Haiti.

The University of Florida is the main contractor and the LSU AgCenter is the subcontractor of the grant, said Jonathan Hubchen, assistant director of the AgCenter Global Network. After graduation, the students are required to return to their country and work for two years.

Leonard, who worked in rice research, said he wants to return to Haiti once he graduates to work in government service and he also wants to teach. After that, he plans to return to LSU to complete his doctorate.

Lexidort is interested in sweet potato production because it is the second-most important crop in the country. She said she would also like to teach once she returns to her country.

Ivana Tregenza, coordinator in the AgCenter Global Network, said the research conducted by the two students is truly a global endeavor.

“The agricultural problems with insects and diseases in Haiti will eventually affect us and vice versa,” she said. “So we do need to know what is going on there, specifically in plant pathology and entomology.”

Hubchen said part of the grant is dedicated to nutritional education in the island nation.

“The grant deals with a wide variety of agricultural-related fields through both research and extension,” he said.

Tregenza said the funding agency determines the needs of the country, and it decides where the funding will go.

“From there, we look at the resumes and we match the student with the expertise that we have. And then the students begin their studies,” she said.