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Agriculture Today

Afghan delegation visits D.C., Texas

Afghan delegation visits D.C., Texas
COURTESY PHOTOS/Borlaug Institute With luggage in hand, the Afghan delegation leaves the Washington, D.C. airport April 28, during their visit to the nation’s capitol and to Texas.

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May 18, 2011
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COLLEGE STATION -- An Afghan delegation visited Washington, D.C. and locations in Texas including Texas A&M University in College Station while the group toured the United States, April 28--May 11.

The delegation consisted of Afghan representatives from provincial and district levels of government and the University of Ghazni, and an Afghan journalist.

The visit is part of an agriculture and governance exchange program of the Task Force White Eagle -- Ghazni Agribusiness Development Team, established by the U.S. Army and the Texas Army National Guard and supported by the Texas A&M System. Funding for the delegation visit was provided by the U.S. Department of State through the auspices of the U.S. Embassy’s Public Affairs Section in Kabul.

According to its task force principals, the purpose of this exchange program is “To assist in the transition to a self-sufficient Afghan government by connecting the emerging government with resources, knowledge and people in the U.S. [United States] who can assist them as they continue to grow in scope, capacity, and responsibility.”

“We hope this visit will help them gain invaluable insights and experiences that will enhance their agriculture, irrigation, and livestock efforts, plus help them establish sustainable relationships with agricultural partners in the United States,” said John Riggs, a program coordinator with the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, located on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station.

Afghan delegation members included Sultan Abdul Hossain, Ghazni director for the Directorate of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, or DAIL, and Zafar Sharif, governor of the Jaghori district of Ghazni. The delegation was hosted by representatives of Agribusiness Development Team IV and the Borlaug Institute, which has been involved in agriculture development projects in Afghanistan for several years, including programs supporting that country’s agriculture, irrigation and livestock enhancement efforts.

“This visit was the brainchild of the task force members from the Texas Army National Guard,” said Riggs. “The Borlaug Institute is providing logistical support and coordinating aspects of the agenda, giving access to AgriLife facilities and experts who can share with them the kinds of information, research and technology that we feel will be of greatest benefit.”

Riggs said the agricultural landscape and infrastructure of the Ghazni province is generally representative of Afghanistan.

“Some of the main challenges they face are developing an effective agricultural Extension service, enhancing the efficiency of their water resource management, and improving their livestock industry,” he said. “We’re hoping this visit introduces them to many techniques and practices they can apply when they return home.”

While in Washington D.C., delegation members participated in a U.S. National Arboretum tree-planting event on April 29 at which time they met with U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary Darci Vetter. They also learn about the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organization and program functions, took a tour of national monuments and Capitol Hill, and participate in area cultural activities.

Texas visit

The delegation traveled to Austin and met with officials of the Texas Animal Health Commission, visited the Texas National Guard command at Camp Mabry, and met with Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and other officials from the Texas Department of Agriculture. The next day, they visited the Texas State Capitol Building, visit a Tyson’s Foods Poultry Processing Center in Seguin, and traveled to College Station.

“It is truly a pleasure to host a visit by the Agriculture and Governance Development team to Camp Mabry,” said Maj. Gen. John Nichols, Texas Military Forces Adjutant General. “Our soldiers have enjoyed many years of hospitality in their country, and it is a great honor to reciprocate.”

The delegation met administrators of various agencies of the Texas A&M University System May 4, and attended a presentation on issues and challenges in water resources management by leaders of the Texas Water Resources Institute.

The delegation visited the system’s Borlaug Institute, College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Science Research Teaching and Extension Center, Rosenthal Center for Meat Science and Technology and George Bush School of Public Policy -- all located in College Station -- as well as the Texas A&M System Dairy Center in Stephenville and the Texas A&M Research and Extension Center in Dallas.

The group also visited

•The USDA-Agricultural Research Service’s South Plains Agricultural Research Center

•An agricultural operation in the Brazos Valley

•A producer’s cooperative and feed-mill facility

•A Texas A&M baseball game

•The Bush Presidential Library, and

•A commercial dairy in the area.

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