North Americans can easily lose sight of the basics, which I was reminded of during a recent trip to Egypt.  I had the privilege of working on a Value-Chain Training project focused on strengthening agricultural technical high schools, through Egyptian faculty members who train teachers integrate workforce preparation skills with state-mandated curriculum.  A colleague from Michigan State University and I provided a three-day workshop, along with developing a marketing communications plan to build greater awareness of this USAID MUCIA program.                                                                               

As is the case with most developing countries, Egypt was a study of contrasts.  95%+ of their population residing on 5% of the land.  Vast miles of desert rising out of the sea and the Nile.  Multiple international degrees at universities while some rural areas face 50% illiteracy.  Millions of Egyptian pounds brought in by the Suez Canal each month while imported goods bear a 40%+ tariff.  The incredible historical significance of a society 5000 years old, yet without the infrastructure to support the current population. 

Returning back to the U.S. culture showcases the glaring issues of materialism, information overload and instant gratification.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m as red, white and blue as you can be.  However, I have to wonder how much of our time and energy is wasted on issues that don’t really compare to those of other countries.  Perhaps the U.S. would benefit from a return to the basics instead of being driven by greed, litigation and watchdogs.  After all, our residents rarely have to worry about adequate food supply or potable water.  If our food is being produced with integrity of the people, land, and animals we benefit from, it would seem agriculturists are doing what needs to be done – even if that’s different from 50 or 100 years ago. When was the last time you shared that message?  It seems to me that the disconnect of people from food production isn’t necessarily progress; it’s going to be up to agriculture to re-connect our culture with their agriculture.

And, to my friends in Egypt, thanks for your incredible hospitality. Your work in agricultural education and workforce development is inspirational!