Perfect Timing for the Greater Good, AGNR Welcomes Dr. Jimmy Smith as Director for International Programs

February 20, 2023 Graham Binder

Over 40 years ago, Dr. Jimmy Smith made an intentional career choice and has maintained a singular, humanitarian focus: to promote food security, poverty alleviation, and environmental sustainability in developing countries. After traveling the globe from the U.S to Canada, to Trinidad, to Africa, Smith has returned to the Washington, D.C. area with a new professional home as director for international programs here in AGNR.

Born in Guyana, but with Caribbean roots, Jimmy has managed livestock enterprises all across the world, most recently serving as director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) headquartered in Kenya and Ethiopia. There he focused on improving livestock production and productivity for under-resourced countries and growing the organization’s budget from $44M to $105M in 10 years. Among many doors he opened, this growth paved the way for Jimmy to develop and operationalize a world-class environment research center - the only one in sub-Saharan Africa - on ILRI’s Nairobi campus to problem-solve global concerns about livestock’s impact on the ecosystem. 

During his career, Jimmy also managed the livestock portfolio for the World Bank, and coordinated regional programs for the Caribbean Agricultural Research & Development Institute, further cementing his legacy as a leader and proponent for agriculture investment across the world. He is widely published, with more than 100 publications, including papers in refereed journals, book chapters, policy papers and edited proceedings.

After a two-year quiet period with no permanent director in place, AGNR jumped at the opportunity to bring on someone with Jimmy’s skills and experience. College leadership is committed to extending its educational efforts abroad to help improve crop production, soil health, conservation practices, and economic development in underdeveloped regions. AGNR faculty and researchers have worked in many regions of the world including Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, China, and Ukraine. Jimmy will oversee college efforts in these areas, and will look to launch projects in new countries as well. 

“I plan to develop an integrated strategy to move forward, including developing strong concepts around some major AGNR themes like One Health, or Vaccinology,” said Smith. “I also plan to promote AGNR speakers, not only identifying people from outside to visit and share knowledge, but have our people travel outside the university to speak and demonstrate our expertise to a broader external audience.” 

Jimmy also plans to look for ways to improve and expand the college’s 2+2 study abroad program - an initiative where AGNR welcomes students from participating foreign universities - including how to make it more affordable and accessible for a greater number of students, especially those without the means to typically participate in global study abroad programs. 

“It was a fortunate twist of fate that Jimmy was able to join our college, and a tremendous opportunity for us to gain an individual with such deep experience in international development,” said Craig Beyrouty, dean of AGNR. “He had just retired from ILRI with plans to move back to the states. I had recently visited with him on a trip to Africa, and the timing and circumstances worked out perfectly in our favor. We feel very lucky to have him.”