In the Wardak Province of Afghanistan, the Georgia Agribusiness Development Team continues to work, building the country's economy and confidence through education.
The unit of the National Guard received agriculture training from the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences experts in February. Now, they are sharing that knowledge with the Afghan people.
Sgt. Carmen Benson, a CAES agricultural education graduate and ADT horticulture expert, recently held a seed germination class for Afghan farmers in the Maiden Shahr district. Back home, Benson teaches sixth through eighth grade students at South Effingham Middle School.
"There were some similarities (in teaching), but I really appreciated their professionalism; they were able to have discussions with me, and they seem very passionate about their jobs," said Benson. "Not only were they learning from me, but I was learning from them as well."
The team is conducting similar training throughout the region. In February, 21 members of the 201st Agribusiness Development Team visited the UGA campus in Athens to get hands-on training from specialists with the CAES. The guardsmen learned about irrigation, crop production, pest management, soils assessment, livestock management and food storage.
"Our job is to help the Afghans change their practices through education, mentorship and easy-to-train, easy-to-sustain crop, livestock, water and land-management projects that fit their culture and environment," said Col. Bill Williams, who runs the ADT.
More than 70 percent of Afghanistan residents are farmers, yet many lack the knowledge to produce viable crops and productive yields. "Our goal is to assist the government in administering these programs by mentoring them so that the government can run them," Williams said.
"Assisting the farmers and villages in creating markets for their food so they can be more self-sufficient and not dependent on foreign imports is a key component to our mission."
Georgia is one of five states preparing units with agriculture experience to aid Afghanistan. Georgia National Guard made a three-year commitment to return to Afghanistan for agriculture training.
The second ADT to deploy to Afghanistan is training on the UGA Tifton campus Nov. 14-18. CAES experts will hold trainings to better prepare the Guard for its mission.
"This is not a typical training session for us, but when the Georgia National Guard asked for help, we wanted to do all we could," said Steve Brown, assistant dean for UGA Cooperative Extension. "While our scientists may not be experts in Afghan agriculture, the basics are the same worldwide.”