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Afghans, Pakistanis and Americans Work to Overcome Challenges

DOHA, Qatar – Representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States met in Doha, Qatar, last week to commence the first Agricultural Trilateral meetings among the nations. The meetings focused on three areas: improving food security, water management, and trade corridors in the Central Asia region. All three areas, said USDA Deputy Under Secretary Burnham Philbrook, will help to increase economic opportunities for millions of Afghans and Pakistanis.

“I think we can all agree that meetings are nice, but progress is preferable,” said Philbrook. “We have come together here because we are serious about improving economic opportunities for Afghans and Pakistanis. And we recognize the historic nature of our responsibilities and seizing this opportunity while it lasts.”

The Agricultural Trilateral is meant to build relationships between Afghans and Pakistanis, and lead to plans that address improvements to each nation’s agricultural economy.

Nearly 50 representatives from the three countries participated in working sessions to develop action plans in each of the three areas. The action plans will address:

  • agriculture trade corridors along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan to facilitate trans-border trade;
  • strengthening food security by reducing post-harvest loss and collaborating on research to improve the production of fruits, nuts, livestock and other agricultural products;
  • and improving water and watershed management and irrigation methods and rehabilitate watersheds to increase crop yields and create jobs.

Launched in May as part of President Barack Obama’s broader new strategy on global food security, the meetings are an important step toward improving some of the root causes of economic instability in the region as a whole. Plans will look at mitigating hunger, addressing job creation, water issues, and examining how to increase agricultural productivity and strengthen markets for the benefit of the region. When plans are complete, USDA will seek to complement strategies by offering collaborative opportunities in research to improve the production of fruits, nuts, livestock and other agricultural products.

“They [the United States] can facilitate our initiative, but our initiative has to be our initiative,” said Malik Zahoor Ahmad, Director General of Pakistan’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

“Only by agricultural reform can farm families climb out of poverty,” said Saleem Kunduzi, Afghanistan’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, “… can farmers stop planting narcotics … can more than a million young men throw away their guns and take up peaceful, honest, paying jobs. … Afghanistan and Pakistan need each other in solving problems.”

Deputy Undersecretary Philbrook

Deputy Under Secretary Philbrook delivers opening remarks at the first plenary meeting of the Agricultural Trilateral Working Groups.

Pakistan and Afghanistan secretariats Burnham Philbrook, Malik and Kunduzi

Left to Right - US, Pakistan and Afghanistan secretariats Burnham Philbrook, Malik and Kunduzi

USDA Reporting to You, and Looking Ahead

Today, the White House launched an interactive online feature with video reports from members of President Obama’s Cabinet.  In his message, Secretary Vilsack addresses the USDA’s accomplishments from 2009, and also talks about how we plan to make life better Americans in the year ahead. To see the Secretary’s statement, click here.

This week, we will be writing about the progress we have made to support agricultural producers, drive rural development, provide nutritious food for children, and much more.

Business Owners, Residents, Community Leaders Share Ideas on Creating Jobs in Greenville, South Carolina

The U.S. Department of Agriculture sponsored a Presidential Roundtable Forum on job creation for South Carolina at the Greenville County Library in Greenville yesterday, bringing together community leaders to brainstorm solutions to high unemployment numbers and the impact on rural areas.

“This forum provides an opportunity to share ideas on creating jobs and economic opportunities,” said Vernita F. Dore, state director of USDA Rural Development in South Carolina.  “Government can help lay the groundwork for economic growth, but the best ideas for continued growth and job creation often come from local communities. We need the best ideas to share with the Obama Administration.”

The roundtable included business owners, residents, state and local officials, union members, non-profit organizations, community leaders, economists, educators and others interested in job creation and economic stability.

Dore said, “This is the fourth job forum that Rural Development has held in South Carolina and what we are finding is that people are very responsive and welcome the opportunity to take an active part in their future and the future of South Carolina by brainstorming together to come up with solutions. The rate of unemployment in South Carolina is currently 12.6 percent. That is unacceptable. The primary purpose of these forums is to find ways to put South Carolinians back to work.

“Furthermore,” Dore continued, “We are here, not only to listen to the leaders of rural communities and their ideas, but also to remind them that Rural Development has the resources to meet the needs of their communities.”

The Forum was sponsored by USDA Rural Development and the Farm Service Agency.

Carthel Crout, Mayor of Williamston, South Carolina, came the Job Forum in Greenville with hopes of improving the water and sewer system in his town.

Carthel Crout, Mayor of Williamston, South Carolina, came the Job Forum in Greenville with hopes of improving the water and sewer system in his town.

"We need more incentives to embrace small business," said Thomasena Holloway, Business Owner and Entrepreneur.

"We need more incentives to embrace small business," said Thomasena Holloway, Business Owner and Entrepreneur.

Submitted by Marlous Black, South Carolina Rural Development Public Information Coordinator

To learn more, go to the Rural Development and FSA Job Roundtables Schedule, and the News Release, “USDA to Host Roundtables on Jobs, Economic Growth