- Associated Press - Sunday, June 8, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The Universidad de Ciencias Forestales and the LSU AgCenter plan a partnership in forestry research and academic programs.

The Honduran university’s rector, Emilio Esbeih, and professor Oscar Leverón visited Baton Rouge recently to meet with AgCenter and LSU School of the Coast and Environment professors.

They also signed a letter of intent with the AgCenter to develop a collaborative relationship.

The Universidad de Ciencias Forestales was originally a training institute for foresters. In 2013 the Honduran government formally labeled it a university.

“We are a small school, but strategic in that we can help reduce poverty in Honduras,” Esbeih said. “We want to improve agriculture and forestry to improve the lives of rural people.”

In January, the Universidad de Ciencias Forestales will begin offering majors in engineering and renewable energy as well as an environmental management master’s program and training for high school forestry teachers.

To help develop its faculty, the university is working to form business and research partnerships with 13 countries and attract international students.

Mutually beneficial research results and students gain practical experience, Leverón said.

“We’re excited to build a relationship with the Universidad de Ciencias Forestales as it establishes itself as a high-quality institution for academics and research,” said David Picha, director of AgCenter international programs. “We’ve identified several potential areas for collaboration that will benefit them and us,” he said.

As it is in Louisiana, forestry is a major economic interest in Honduras. In recent decades, forests throughout Central America were cleared for timber and to provide space for cattle ranching.

Leverón said the Universidad de Ciencias Forestales can play a significant role as groups work to revitalize forests.

“Many people are forgetting about food and the environment - where it comes from and how important it is,” Leverón said. “We need to promote a passion for agriculture, and we know LSU can help.”

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