Some of Afghanistan’s best and brightest agricultural officials are in the United States this month receiving training that will benefit their country for years to come.
Over the next two weeks, 12 mid- and senior-level agriculture officials from Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) are receiving executive management training from USDA leadership and some of the sharpest agricultural instructors in the country.
USDA selected these individuals to come to the United States from Sept. 19 through 30 as part of the Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program.
The Borlaug program is administered by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and is designed to promote international food security and economic growth by increasing scientific knowledge and collaborative research to improve agricultural productivity. Since the program’s inception in 2004, more than 500 agricultural professionals from 64 developing countries, including Afghanistan, have received training.
Over the years, Afghan Borlaug Fellows have been trained on topics including animal heath, rangeland management and horticulture. The training for this group of fellows is focused on executive management and leadership.
This group is unique because two of its members are women. It’s the first time Afghan women have participated in the executive management program. The Afghan workforce, leadership positions in particular, is still heavily male-dominated. In being here, these women – both of whom have college degrees and hold prominent positions within MAIL – are taking important steps forward for the future of all Afghan women.
All of the fellows spent their first two days in Washington, D.C. where they saw first-hand how USDA operates. They met leadership and learned about USDA’s role in the national and local governments, budget policy and procedures, and strategic planning objectives.
From there, the fellows flew across the country to Pullman, Washington, home of Washington State University (WSU). There, they are meeting with WSU’s partners at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to learn how applied research enhances USDA’s ability to deliver services to farmers and agribusinesses. The WSU faculty and staff will also instruct the fellows on a variety of subjects including agricultural marketing, consumer science and youth development programs. The fellows will also take part in a demonstration of how Washington State’s extension system works.
Ultimately, the goal of this training is to provide fellows valuable skills, which they will take with them and apply toward the betterment of MAIL and the entire Afghan agricultural sector.
The Borlaug Fellowship program is just one component of FAS’s efforts to help improve Afghanistan’s agricultural environment which has long been a priority of FAS. Since 2003, more than 100 USDA agricultural advisors have served in locations throughout Afghanistan, working side-by-side with MAIL officials, as well Afghan farmers and ranchers, to provide valuable training. In a country where 80 percent of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihood, improving the overall agricultural sector is an major factor in achieving stability and a successful future.