The International Program Research Unit (IPRU) of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's National Wildlife Research Center (formerly the U. S. Dept. of Interior, Denver Wildlife Research Center until 1995) used its expertise around the world to control vertebrate pest damage to crops and livestock. Center employees provided problem definition, technical assistance, program development, and training to several thousand individuals in over ninety-five countries of the world. Working in many countries of Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America, from 1967 to 1995, Center scientists attempted to assist developing countries in finding new and/or improved methods and strategies to deal with vertebrate pests in order to increase agricultural output.
Charged with the mission of helping to reduce agriculture losses by vertebrate pests that adversely affected agriculture in impoverished and developing countries, the IPRU tried to bring agricultural sustainability to subsistence farmers. Bats, rats, and birds cost millions of dollars in damage and losses to these already poor countries. For example, the quelea bird devastated African crops, rats destroyed rice in Asia, and vampire bats infected cattle with rabies in Latin America.
Scientists from the National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) concentrated on assisting and working cooperatively in predominantly developing countries to improve agricultural conditions. This work was conducted at the Center's headquarters in Colorado and at various field stations around the world. The Center had multi-year field stations in Mexico, Bangladesh, Haiti/Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Pakistan, Sudan, Tanzania, Morocco, Chad, and Colombia. Extensive work also was undertaken and completed through short term technical outreach assistance, training, and program development in many other countries.
The Center's international assistance efforts began and matured during two major time periods in world history: the Cold War and the Green Revolution. The Cold War ran from roughly 1950 to the early 1990s, and while difficult to precisely define, refers to an era in which there was a tense, dangerous rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union that began after the two former World War II allies parted ways over ideological differences. The Green Revolution ran from about 1960 to 1990, and generally related to the significant yield transformation of several basic cereal crops, including rice and wheat, in the developing countries of the world. Agricultural technical innovations from this time period include the development and commercialization of high-yield seeds, the increased application of pesticides and herbicides, and the widespread use of irrigation techniques and modern fertilizers.
Foreign aid programs gained popularity during the 1960s. President John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps with Executive Order 10924 in 1961 to send Americans abroad to help countries requesting assistance. Also in 1961, the Foreign Assistance Act separated military and non-military aid to other countries. This act led to the founding of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to deal with economic and social assistance to developing nations. USAID provided much of the funding for the Center's international efforts.
The Center's overseas presence declined during the early 1990s as international donor assistance programs and associated resources were focused on emerging democracies. Worldwide, relations between the United States and the Soviet Union changed after Glasnost, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the end of the Soviet Union. After almost thirty years in vertebrate pest damage management helping developing countries feed themselves, the Center's international agricultural development research efforts ceased in 1995, due to insufficient funding as major international donors shifted funding priorities. Even though the NWRC no longer has a formalized international program, the Center continues to provide international assistance as requested, and has done so on about thirty occasions to eleven countries since 1995. In retrospect, for over thirty years the Center has provided valuable aid and assistance, often on a basic human level to many different countries in the world.
* See also: stories from the field