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Borlaug-Ruan Intern Finds Inspiration in India

By Lisa Fleming
Former Director of International Internships & Career Development, The World Food Prize Foundation
Lisa Fleming

“It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done but the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.” Thus started my recent conversation with Edwin Belton Moore - a World Food Prize Borlaug-Ruan International Intern Alumnus from North Carolina – as he reflected on his 2015 summer internship at the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in India while a high school junior. Belton, a proud member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, one of the largest Native American tribes in the United States, performed research at the MSSRF’s field site in the Community Agrobiodiversity Centre (CAbC), located in the Wayanad district in the Indian state of Kerala.

Interested in the indigenous peoples of India, Belton chose to work with the CAbC’s Tribal United Development Initiative within the area of Sustainable Livelihoods and Food Security. This program focuses on holistic developmental intervention among the Tribes of Kerala. His research focused on the impact of land rights on the food security of members of the Tribes.

Belton and I discussed the ideas of “accidental luck”, “karma” and “aha moments” that we often ponder, as they led us on one certain life’s path. We concluded that these moments of personal insight have the greatest success when we are open-minded, willing to try new experiences and engaged in activities about which we are passionate. We learn from such experiences and become mindful so that we can positively direct our responses in the future. In Belton’s case, the initial homesickness, unfamiliar culture and cuisine and occasional lack of modern conveniences in India proved challenging during the initial days of his internship. However, he coped well, immersed himself in the new culture and ultimately learned to be more independent, reflective and focused on the important research at hand. During that summer at the MSSRF, Belton realized that he wanted to become an advocate for the underprivileged as a future career. Today, he is studying Economics at North Carolina State University. 

Belton and I also talked about the impact that just one individual or one learning experience can have on a student. I gave the example of Dr. Norman Borlaug’s encounter with Dr. E. C. Stakman, plant pathologist at the University of Minnesota, who was a pioneer for methods of identifying and combating disease in wheat. After attending a lecture by Stakman, Borlaug made the critical decision to change his college major from Forestry to Plant Pathology. He went on to dedicate his life to feeding the world through scientific and humanitarian efforts. Great mentors like Stakman apply their expertise and mindfulness from their own life’s experiences to help educate their students and create successful learning environments. Borlaug, in turn, became a great teacher and, through his life’s story, still serves as an inspiration to countless young students and researchers around the world, including the Borlaug-Ruan Interns, for whom he is a strong role model. 

This year marks the 20th anniversary (2017-2018) of the Borlaug-Ruan Internship Program. The Internship empowers its young high school participants ages 16-18 to contribute to alleviating hunger and poverty through hands-on research. The unique recipe of the Program engages students – at the perfect age when they are open to learning about potential academic and career paths relevant to improving livelihoods of the poor and marginalized - and places them under the mentorship of renowned international agriculturalists and food security experts around the world who create a rich, real-world learning environment.

The Foundation looks forward to launching many more success stories like Belton’s. I am confident that the Borlaug-Ruan Internship experience will continue to serve as a catalyst, leading interns to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Borlaug and the World Food Prize Laureates to ensure a sustainable world. 

To read Belton’s internship report visit the website here.

12/04/2017 9:50 AM |Add a comment |Comments (1)
Lisa, this was a well written piece. Dr. Borlaug’s legacy was fostered in the young adults that you assisted. He is smiling at you right now.

Jody Beimer | | 12/04/2017 7:42 PM
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