News / USA

Traditional Afghan Farming Gets Modern Twist

Visiting students learn updated agriculture skills and techniques

Afghan Agriculture Minister Asif Rahimi tours an Indiana farm with members of the Agriculture Development Team that worked closely with him in Afghanistan in 2009.
Afghan Agriculture Minister Asif Rahimi tours an Indiana farm with members of the Agriculture Development Team that worked closely with him in Afghanistan in 2009.

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +

In Afghanistan, the vast majority of the population relies on agriculture for its livelihood. Three decades of war have not changed the central importance of farming in this country, only its difficulty.

Afghanistan's U.S.-educated Minister of Agriculture is considered one of his country's most innovative and effective administrators. He is working with the United States and international organizations to improve Afghan farming. That effort includes one cooperative program that teaches Afghan students modern agricultural skills.

In classrooms at Purdue University in Indiana, 12 graduate students in agriculture present their research to Afghanistan's Minister of Agriculture, Asif Rahimi, a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

The students are part of Purdue's Advancing Afghan Agriculture Alliance, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). One tells the minister his project on breeding fungus-resistant wheat is already making a difference in Afghanistan.

The Alliance program began in 2007 and now includes nearly 90 students at Purdue and a few other U.S. and Indian universities with strong agricultural programs. Purdue's assistant director of International Programs, Kevin McNamara, says everyone involved is focused on enhancing Afghanistan's agrarian society.

Purdue graduate student Mirwais Rahimi, from Herat Province, presents his research findings to Afghanistan's Minister of Agriculture Asif Rahimi (no relation).
Purdue graduate student Mirwais Rahimi, from Herat Province, presents his research findings to Afghanistan's Minister of Agriculture Asif Rahimi (no relation).

"Agriculture is very, very important. Agriculture there is very different from the U.S. In the U.S., agricultural production is about one percent of the economy," he says. "In Afghanistan, it's about one-third. In the U.S., agricultural production employs about two percent of the population. In Afghanistan, it's about 80 percent."

According to McNamara, students in the Alliance program will graduate with skills of great value to Afghanistan's agriculture sector.

"Right now we now have twelve students at Purdue. Four of them are finishing their masters degree programs, and the rest will finish by next May. But these young Afghan faculty members came to Purdue to get Masters degrees so they can go back and teach in the universities they come from. The primary one is Kabul University, but we're also working with faculty at Herat, Nangahar, Balkh and Kandahar. What we're trying to do is get these bright young people out to international schools so they can develop expertise in their disciplinary area."

Thirty years of war have had a terrible effect on Afghanistan's agricultural infrastructure. Rahimi - who was named Minister of Agriculture in 2008 - says improving that base is essential to bringing peace to his country.

"The Afghan government has put significant focus on rebuilding Afghanistan's agriculture, which has during the war been totally destroyed. From 1978 until 2001, every year 3 percent of agricultural production has gone down," says Rahimi. "And because of the drought, half of livestock has perished. So now we are rebuilding. We have some success in both rebuilding Afghanistan's agriculture and rebuilding livestock back."

To continue that success, Rahimi has a long-range modernization plan for his department.

He is relying on a team of young Afghan agricultural officials he has hired. As efforts to redevelop the country continue, many of Afghanistan's best and brightest are recruited by high-paying international organizations. But Rahimi says he manages to hold on to his people with more than good salaries.

"Also providing them incentives, training. Capacity, building all these people, providing them opportunities. Also job satisfaction," he says. "So I'm using not only the salary as one factor, but also at the same time creating an environment where people feel they are part of a transformation, the overall ownership of the ministry. That is where all of us work as a very strong team."

Transforming Afghanistan's agriculture is also complicated work, which Rahimi acknowledges will require the help of the international community. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced a $38 million grant to assist his ministry with organization and training. But Rahimi says his team will take the lead in this cooperative venture.

"Follow our footsteps, because we know Afghanistan best," he says. "And provide us technical assistance that you are good at."

You May Like

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid