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 Under Secretary Philbrook delivers opening remarks at the first plenary meeting of the Agricultural Trilateral Working Groups.
Left to Right - US, Pakistan and Afghanistan secretariats Burnham Philbrook, Malik and Kunduzi