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October 15, 2012   Columns Articles | Inside UGA | Third National Guard team trains in Tifton to help…

Third National Guard team trains in Tifton to help Afghans

J. Merritt Melancon

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By J. Merritt Melancon | October 15, 2012
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The mission of the Georgia National Guard Agribusiness Development Teams always has been to help Afghans build a more secure society by improving food security. However over the teams’ past two deployments the methods for completing that mission have changed. 

While the first two Georgia Agribusiness Development Teams focused on working directly with Afghan farmers, ADT III —which will deploy in January—will focus more on training extension specialists with the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock. 

“Right now, we’re hearing that a lot of things have changed,” said Sgt. First Class Allen Cooper, who deployed with ADT I in 2011. “We’re actually not going to be so much hands on this time. We’re going to be mentoring and turning everything over to the Afghans. So I’m hoping to see that they’re taking charge and holding their own classes.” 

Cooper’s team, which trained in Tifton in late September, is the third group of Georgia National Guardsmen who have trained with College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences faculty for an Agribusiness Development Team mission. 

“Small changes that you can make have a profound impact in what they do in that part of the world,” said J. Scott Angle, dean of the agricultural and environmental sciences college. “It doesn’t take a lot of resources, it just takes a little bit of good information, and you are armed with that.” 

During the weeklong course, CAES faculty hit the high points of  small-scale wheat, poultry, fruit, dairy and ruminant livestock production, but they also focused a lot on market building—an area where Afghan farmers need the most help.

The first Georgia ADT team that deployed to Afghanistan found that farmers there knew how to make their arid land produce. Afghanis were raising livestock, like goats and cows, but also wheat fields, grapes and watermelons. That being said, their farming practices could be more productive, said Col. Barry Beach, commander of ADT III. 

“It’s more of the marketing part, building the (marketing associations among farmers) and expanding on the subsistence farming they are doing now,” Beach said. “If they can market their crops, they can make more money, and if they can do that, they can take care of their families.” 

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