History of IPIA and International Activities

2000 to Present

Between 2002 and 2008, the West Africa Bean/Cowpea CRSP began in Senegal and Burkina Faso in partnership with the African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF) and the Network for the Genetic Improvement of Cowpea for Africa (NGICA). Larry Murdock (Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Entomology) was the lead investigator on this project, which also involved his then-student, Barry Pittendrigh (Professor of Entomology). The goal of the project was to improve the molecular genetic make-up of cowpea to increase output for growers and to develop a management plan to express Bt, an insecticide gene, in cowpeas to combat the problem of Maruca vitrata, the cowpea pod borer. During the last two years of Dean Sammons's tenure (2004-2006), he was on leave from Purdue working on university relations as a senior advisor in the Office of Agriculture at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). During this period, James "Jess" Lowenberg-DeBoer(Elizabeth Creak Chair of Agri-Tech Economics at Harper Adams University) served as interim Director and, following Dean Sammons' resignation to move to the University of Florida in July 2006, was formally appointed Associate Dean and IPIA Director, serving in that role from 2006 to 2015.

During Dean Lowenberg-DeBoer's tenure, Purdue embarked on an ambitious program to strengthen higher education in war-torn Afghanistan. This work centered on Kabul University and the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture beginning in 2006, and continued for more than a decade under the leadership of Kevin McNamara (Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics). IPIA administered the program that provided support in the form of training of mid-level and junior faculty and providing computers and textbooks.  Kevin, who had previously worked in Afghanistan with the Peace Corps between 1972 and 1974, developed the program after attending the reopening of Kabul University following the fall of the Taliban in 2002. Faculty exchanges began in 2006 with 17 mid-career faculty members from universities in Afghanistan coming to Purdue to work on development of their courses and curriculum. The same year Purdue also began working with Afghanistan's Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL) to expand the capacity of their program of safety certifications for exporting agricultural products.  This project continued until 2014. In 2008, a parallel program brought 13 junior level faculty members from universities throughout Afghanistan to Purdue for graduate training. In 2012, Purdue joined a consortium of universities with the aim of growing the capacity of MAIL's extension program to improve service delivery to rural Afghans. This program would continue into 2017, and from 2013 to 2018 the College partnered with Herat University to strengthen its agricultural research and extension programs. The last of the Afghan projects, introducing agribusiness and food technology curriculum into Afghan universities, concluded in 2019.


As early as the 1980s, Larry Murdock (Distinguished Professor of Entomology) was working on ways to combat pests affecting cowpeas during storage. This early research was supported by USAID and, working with partners at Institute of Agricultural Research for Development , Cameroon (IRAD), World VisionCatholic Relief Services and Save the Children, initially focused on farmers in Cameroon. This was the origin of PICS, an acronym now recognized by more than five million farmers in more than 50,000 villages and 25+ countries around the world. PICS initially stood for Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage, but over time came to represent the more general concept of Improved Crop Storage. In 2007, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation began to support this work, which at various stages was managed by IPIA and led out of Entomology. Key to the success of PICS was the involvement of Dieudonné Baributsa (Associate Professor of Entomology). PICS1 focused on cowpea storage in West and Central Africa, and PICS2 was initiated in 2011 for research into the usefulness of the technology with other crops (maize, sorghum, wheat, rice, etc.). A third grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched PICS3 in 2014 with the goal of commercializing the technology in Sub-Saharan Africa. The PICS project resulted in the establishment of a private company, PICS Global, Inc. to expand the project into Asian markets. Laurie Kitch (a former Ph.D. student of Murdock's become involved with PICS in 2016-2017 when management of the PICS trademark transitioned from the Purdue Research Foundation to PICS Global, where Laurie serves as CEO.

Building on the success of the PICS project, in 2014 Purdue received a grant from USAID to host the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Processing and Post-Harvest Handling (FPIL). This project initially focused on post-harvest loss reduction and value-added processing, mainly in Kenya and Senegal. In 2019, USAID extended support of the project to 2022. Managed by IPIA, this project has involved more than a dozen College of Agriculture faculty members, among them the current Director Jacob Ricker-Gilbert (Professor of Agricultural Economics), Bruce Hamaker (Distinguished Professor of Food Science), Suzanne Nielsen (Professor of Food Science) and Charles Woloshuk (Professor of Botany and Plant Pathology).

Following Jess Lowenberg-DeBoer's departure as IPIA Director in 2015, K. G. "Ragu" Raghothama (Professor of Horticulture) served as Interim Director for much of the period between 2015 and 2019, except for a brief period in 2017-18 when Indrajeet Chaubey (former Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering) served as Associate Dean and Director. During this period, a series of high-level meetings and exchanges established the basis for a collaboration between Purdue and the Universidad Nacional de San Agustín (UNSA) in Arequipa, Peru.  In March of 2018, the Arequipa Nexus Institute for Food, Water, Energy, and the Environment was officially launched. This portfolio of research projects, technical workshops, and programs for visiting scholars has engaged nearly 100 UNSA and Purdue faculty and staff, including many in the College of Agriculture.

Food Science group photo
L-R: Brian Farkas (former Department Head for Food Science, Purdue University), Bonnie Glick (former Deputy Administrator, USAID), Haley Oliver (Director, Food Safety Innovation Lab Professor of Food Science, Purdue University), Martin Wiedmann (Gellert Family Professor in Food Safety, Cornell University), Robert Bertram (Chief Scientist, Bureau for Resilience and Food Security, USAID), Kelley Cormier (Food Safety Chief in the Center for Nutrition, USAID).


In 2019, Gerald "Jerry" Shively (Professor of Agricultural Economics) was appointed the College's sixth Associate Dean for International Programs. In early 2019, Purdue led a series of high-profile events related to scaling up agricultural innovations that built upon a major conference that was held at Purdue in the fall of 2018. These events included a launch of the Scale Up Sourcebook at the National Press Club (in Washington, DC in early 2019) and a Policy Forum on Scaling at the African Green Revolution Forum (in Accra, Ghana in the fall of 2019). In 2019, College researchers also received a number of grants to sustain international activities into a new decade. In addition to an extension of the FPIL, these included a four-year grant from the USAID Mission in Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR) to support capacity building for research on nutrition, and a five-year grant from USAID to manage the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Safety (FSIL). This innovation lab is directed by Haley Oliver (Associate Professor of Food Science) and focuses on activities in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Senegal.

Response to the Covid-19 global pandemic in 2020 required flexibility and innovation, with many formerly in-person activities moving to virtual and remote methods of engagement. By far, the most significant of these was the IPIA-led Global Agriculture Innovation Forum, a year-long series of virtual events supported by USDA-FAS. The Forum brought nearly 100 global thought-leaders to the virtual stage for presentations and discussion on six themes related to agricultural innovation, and resulted in more than 30 hours of recorded video content that is available on the College of Agriculture’s YouTube channel. As Covid-19 vaccination and testing became widely available starting in late 2021, and with risks substantially reduced, IPIA began to renew in-person and overseas activities. This included playing host to the 2022 and 2023 cohort of the Mandela Washington Fellows. These young African leaders, representing more than 18 countries, spent six weeks on the Purdue campus during the summers of 2022 and 2023, ensuring continued expansion of our global network of friends, colleagues and collaborators.