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International Visitors Program

Purpose

The Visitors Program is designed to provide specialized on-the-job training in the U.S. for foreign nationals from other countries. Foreign officials are given opportunities to gain a better understanding of ecosystem-based assistance by observing and discussing conservation programs in the U.S., in order to transfer applicable methods back to their home countries.

Administration

The International Programs Division (IPD) administers the program. Requests for training programs are reviewed by IPD to determine agency Development participation, and evaluated to identify training objectives. Programs are tailored to meet individuals training needs and foreign government needs. The IPD usually develops and coordinates assignments for international visitors. There are times, however, when NRCS employees are contacted directly by universities or other institutions in order to provide assistance to these visitors. When this happens, please inform the IPD of the request received and the assistance provided. We would like to document all participant activity in our annual report.

Funding

IPD has no authority to fund international training programs. Funding sources vary from program to program. Examples of funding may include:

  • U.S. Agency for International Development.
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
  • World Bank.
  • Foreign Governments.
  • International Foundations.
  • Self-funding of Participants.

Types of Visitors

Foreign nationals are designated as students, experienced technicians, scientific and technical exchange participants, administrators, observational visitors, farmers, or volunteers. Specific programs are prepared for each category. Programs may be specialized and of short duration or may last as long as one year and involve academic study. Most of the programs are hands-on and field oriented and are individually tailored to the needs, capabilities, and desires of the visitor to provide maximum benefits. Programs are conducted by NRCS employees in the course of their normal on-the-job duties rather than in a classroom situation.

Students Many people are brought to this country for both undergraduate and graduate work in natural resources conservation and related subjects. In addition to their formal academic training at a college or university, students gain practical experience by participating in informal on-the-job programs with NRCS in the field during vacation periods or after completion of their academic training. They are usually expected to gain enough knowledge and experience during this period so that they are able to conduct similar work or studies in their home office.
Experienced Technicians Scientists, engineers, or other officials who have been working on-the-job in their home country come to the U.S. to see and to learn new skills and in many cases to update their academic training with or without obtaining a degree. Technicians work with field office staff members, conservation districts, and other partners as they assist in developing individual conservation plans and applying soil and water conservation measures on all private land.
Scientific and Technical Exchange Participants Exchange of technical knowledge and information between NRCS employees and foreign governments is a continuing effort. Participants work with their NRCS counterparts in the U.S. to share data and new technologies for natural resources conservation.
Administrators Policymakers visit NRCS to study the way our work is planned, organized, and administered. They usually spend a short time in National Headquarters, institutes, centers, state or field offices to observe the function and operation at each level. This is an important part of the international program -- without support from the top, the people will have a difficult time adapting and using the principles they have learned.
Observational Visitors NRCS employees may make available to any visitor the ordinary assistance that common courtesy requires. Visitors usually have limited time available and typically have specific objectives to accomplish. This assistance does not include tours that entail travel expenses or absence from usual duties for an extended period.
Farmers American farmers have made great strides in reducing cropland erosion using soil-conserving practices such as crop residue management, contour tillage, stripcropping, and land retirement. Farmers from other countries visit our farms and local organizations serving farmers to discover for themselves many of the fundamental aspects of our way of life. The time they have with us is usually short but the value of showing them the importance of natural resources conservation is great.
Volunteers Foreign nationals sometimes participate in our Earth Team Program, working at a particular site to gain knowledge and experience.

Benefits

NRCS has a commitment to help individual landowners and local organizations and governments identify and address natural resource issues and problems. We have a real opportunity to help people from other countries plan and apply effective conservation measures. Many countries have been conserving resources for thousands of years and have established their own programs. Our involvement in international conservation efforts has brought different technologies to NRCS that include: better nutrient management, erosion control and residue management; improvements in conservation buffer, water quality, bioengineering, plant materials, and agroforestry technologies; more effective animal waste management and disposal systems and small dam design and maintenance; and better understanding of desertification, climate change, environmental indicators, and non-point source pollution control.

Visitors should be encouraged to think of possible adaptation of NRCS methods or policies when appropriate. The benefits of our assistance will be measured by the extent that their home conditions can be improved. We can logically help them explore the possible changes that can be made in their present system, but we should avoid trying to tell them how they should change their systems. Without a clear understanding of their local conditions, it is very difficult to make appropriate recommendations for changes. Better assistance can be given if we understand something about the country from which they come and the jobs they have at home.

Remember that most of our visitors are very important officials in their own country. They are people of prestige, influence, and standing. Do not underrate them if they are not always up-to-date on all our technical advances. We anticipate a continuing need for hosting international visitors, and we encourage you to recognize that our International Visitor’s Program is an important part of our job. We invite you to consider the ways in which the Program has, or can be, an influence in your career -- in your personal as well as professional development goals.

Hospitality and Community Service

We must assume that our visitors are unfamiliar with our customs, our methods, our slang, our language, and other matters at least until we have talked with them and found out what they know about these things. It might be a good idea to use visual aids to illustrate or demonstrate the subjects under discussion. We should avoid trying to impress our visitors with the biggest or the best in our country and we should not stress the highly advanced stage of our agriculture as compared with that of other countries. Encourage them to ask questions, but do not assume they are not interested if few questions are forthcoming. Because of their culture and traditions, many foreign nationals are reluctant to speak out.

There are many ways in which we can make our visitors feel at home and avoid embarrassment in a strange land. They are interested not only in agriculture, but also in American customs, institutions, and our way of life in general. Advice and assistance on where to stay and eat, help with transportation problems, what to do and see on weekends or holidays, contacts with local churches, and help in case of sickness are a few ways in which you can make the visit one to be remembered. Contacts with the press, radio, or television stations can serve as a means of showing them they are welcome in our communities as well as provide for dissemination of interesting and useful information to the public. Visits to private homes, community clubs, and organizations offer special experiences of seeing how we live and observing how we carry out our daily tasks. Some will be proud to speak to groups about their native land or the purpose of their visit to this country and how they will use the knowledge, skills, and information gained when they return home.



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