PULLMAN, Wash.—Washington State University’s International Agricultural Development Office and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are hosting 12 representatives of the Afghanistan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock through Sept. 30 so they can observe agricultural research and extension services at the national and state levels. The visit is part of an executive management-fellowship program for mid-to-senior-level Afghan ministry leaders to learn how to apply what they see to their own system.
The program will demonstrate for Afghan participants how WSU and USDA deliver services to producers and consumers across the United States. The training includes a study tour of USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C.; the Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Md.; Washington State University’s main Pullman campus; and county Farm Service Centers throughout the state.
Chris Pannkuk, WSU IRD director, said the visit is a key opportunity to complement WSU’s continuing programs in Afghanistan. University personnel worked directly with the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education, which sought to provide equal access to quality education and e-education resources, leading to expanded student enrollment at public universities. Thirty-five percent of those additional students are female. WSU researchers have also provided training in producing and marketing saffron as an alternative cash crop, identifying agricultural systems as alternatives to poppy production in Laghman Province, and installing meteorological stations to help rebuild the government’s capacity to carry out agricultural research at many stations in Afghanistan.
“WSU has been working in Afghanistan for nine years. We have a commitment to help bring about change through capacity-building that will reach out to the small land-holding farmers in rural Afghanistan,” Pannkuk said. “Not unlike working in Jordan for the last 35 years and Malawi for the last 25 years, we are committed to a long-term relationship.”
Through the visit, organizers hope the Afghan leaders will:
- Develop a better understanding of how USDA is structured and managed and how USDA communicates and coordinates with the U.S. Congress, the White House Office of Management and Budget, the private sector, consumers and other key stakeholders;
- Learn about USDA’s budgeting process through briefings by its Office of Budget and Program Analysis, emphasizing how funding mechanisms ensure USDA programs are implemented through the department’s state and county offices nationwide;
- Gain knowledge, through meetings with WSU’s partners on campus and throughout Washington state, how USDA relies on applied research to enhance its ability to deliver modern and improved services to domestic farmers and agribusinesses;
- Meet with WSU personnel to learn about various research and educational agricultural programs that provide technical information related to production and marketing of agricultural products, develop and manage consumer science and youth development activities, and regulate responsibilities for postharvest handling of agricultural products; and
- See in action how Washington state’s extension system is a cooperative undertaking of federal, state and county governments, as well as how WSU’s systems enhance technology transfer, by visiting an agricultural county’s Farm Service Center.