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July 20, 2012

Documentary details Oklahoma State University's role in developing agriculture in Ethiopia

STILLWATER, Okla. — The producer of a documentary that details the impact American educators had on Ethiopia’s agriculture said the film says a lot about America as a nation.

“This documentary shows that the United States is a pioneer in helping people in need,” said Mel Tewahade, who showed his two-hour film Thursday night at the Wes Watkins Center at Oklahoma State University. “It was a pleasure to produce this film.”

The film, titled “Point Four,” features many interviews with OSU faculty and family who participated in the program in the mid-1950s and late 1960s. Tewahade showed Part 2 of the documentary on Thursday.

“I think I can speak for all of us and say that this was a very inspiring film,” said David Henneberry, associate vice president for International Studies and Outreach at OSU. “We heard their stories, and those stories could have been lost to the wind, but they are not because Mel put it all together in a film.”

“It has worked beyond anybody’s wildest expectations,” Tewahade said. “The (agricultural) methods that we were using in Ethiopia were not efficient. What the “Point Four” program did for Ethiopia was introduce modern education and made it possible to set up extension programs, research facilities and schools. The program was so instrumental in developing a more modern understanding of agriculture.”

Henry Bennett, then president of OSU, led a collaborative effort in 1956 to establish Haramaya University, an agricultural college in Ethiopia.

Henneberry said he would like to see a renewed relationship by Oklahoma State with the Ethiopian agricultural community.

“I’d like to get a group from OSU to go back to Ethiopia,” he said.

“It will always be my hope that OSU continues to be engaged in this program,” Tewahade said. “The program has evolved into something even greater than I ever dreamed. ... It takes momentum to get things going, but once you get momentum going and get people inspired, it can make things happen.”

Part 3 of the series is in production, Tewahade said.

“We had intended to do four parts, but it looks like three will be sufficient,” he said. “But it could still evolve into a fourth part, depending on how the interviews and editing goes.”

Tewahade said funding for the documentary comes entirely from his personal foundation.

“It costs money, that is true,” he said. “We conducted interviews in seven or eight cities, and you have to get the (filming) crew there and there are many production costs. But we think this is a very important story to tell, so the cost is not so significant. It’s worth it.”

Tewahade said the first two parts of the documentary will be available to purchase online at or by calling 800-770-4156.

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