The Cochran Fellowship Program in the Caribbean

 

For nearly two decades the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Cochran Fellowship Program (CFP) has supported efforts in the Caribbean region to increase technical knowledge and skills in areas related to food safety, agricultural trade, agribusiness development, management, policy and marketing.  Over the past ten years alone the CFP has trained over 70 professionals from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turks and Caicos Islands. 

Cochran fellows come to the United States, generally for 2-3 weeks, and work with Universities, government agencies and private companies receiving hands-on training to enhance capacities within their targeted field of study.  Applicants compete on the strength of their application which is evaluated against its alignment with Cochran regional development objectives.  Each qualified applicant is interviewed by USDA before final selections are determined.    

The CFP’s platform provides participants the ability to tailor training to professional development interests.  Participants can meet with leading specialists in their field, participate in field observations and/or industry tours, engage in hands-on training with dedicated mentors, and/or attend university level courses or seminars.  The CFP’s cost-share structure ensures participant active engagement in their program development and implementation. 

In 2017, the CFP’s regional development focus for the Caribbean will be in the areas of risk management for veterinary officials, biotech/biosafety, and young farmer entrepreneurship. 

Previous program areas focused training on:

 

 

? Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Production and Handling

? Agribusiness Development & Extension

? Agricultural Statistics

? Handling and Marketing Systems for Meat and Dairy

? Agricultural Biotechnology

? Environmental Aspects of Agricultural Biotechnology

 

? Food Safety

? Meat and Poultry Inspection

? HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) Systems

? Residue Analysis

? Animal and Plant Health Inspection

? Agricultural Quarantine and Inspection

? Domestic Veterinary Epidemiology

? Trans-boundary Animal Diseases

 

The benefits of the CFP are equally as varied. 

Mr. Nathan Orlando Small of the Analytical Services Laboratory, Government of Barbados, commented about the Microbiology training in 2012 that he received from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service that: “As a result of the training we have been able to streamline some of our laboratory procedures and we are looking to introduce some new methodologies into our work (within our financial limitations).  Our lab is currently unaccredited and the training provided us with a better understanding of the type of work required when the lab becomes accredited.” 

 

Ms. Shellyn George of the Environmental Health Department, Government of Dominica, said of her 2014 training in meat and poultry inspection that: “The HCCAP training was an eye opener for me. I have always heard of HCCAP and I always thought it was to be followed only at the larger food establishments. The slaughtering processes were very interesting and with the knowledge gained, I will be working closely with the team of persons constructing the first abattoir here in Dominica.  The biggest achievement for me was gaining my stepping stone to pursuing studies in Food Safety. I was considering doing my Bachelor’s degree in Public Health or Food Safety but presently I found my heart’s desire.  FOOD SAFETY!  I am presently looking for a right school to pursue my studies so that I can make a difference in my country when it comes to food safety.”

 

Dr. Sharmine Melville-Edwin, Veterinary Officer with the St. Lucia Ministry of Agriculture who received training in 2014 on Transboundary Animal Diseases at USDA’s Animal Disease Center at Plum Island, New York, commented that: “The (CFP) experience and skills acquired from practical sessions in necropsy lab, has been used to better carry out necropsies on farms here in St. Lucia.  As coordinator of my Division’s Veterinary Public Health Unit, I regularly handle issues of trade and movement of animals and animal products. The increased knowledge in exotic diseases has allowed me to think more critically when dealing with import and export issues.”

For more information, visit http://www.cbato.fas.usda.gov/Cochran.htm or contact USDA’s Caribbean Basin Agricultural Trade Office (CBATO) in Miami at atocaribbeanbasin@fas.usda.gov.