Dozens of USDA Civilian Experts Currently Serving in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2012 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) announced today that Gary Soiseth of Turlock, Calif. recently returned from a two-year assignment in Afghanistan where he helped to rebuild the country’s agricultural sector.
Soiseth used his experience and education in farming to help revitalize Afghanistan’s agriculture. He is one of more than 120 USDA employees who have deployed to Afghanistan since 2003 in support of USDA’s efforts there. The growth of Afghanistan’s agricultural sector, which employs more than 80 percent of its workforce, is a key component of the U.S. government’s strategy to stabilize the country.
"The efforts of people like Gary Soiseth are crucial for creating a stable and economically viable Afghanistan," said FAS Acting Administrator Suzanne Heinen. "Whether their expertise is in marketing, forestry, soil and water conservation, agricultural extension and policy, or veterinary services, volunteers like Mr. Soiseth are contributing their specialized skills to help Afghans rebuild their economy and stabilize the country."
USDA’s primary role in Afghanistan is helping to build capacity within the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) so that it may deliver vital services to Afghan farmers and citizens.
Most USDA employees in Afghanistan serve as agricultural experts in units consisting of military force protection and civilians with expertise in agriculture, governance and other areas in need of attention. USDA agricultural experts work side-by-side with Afghan nationals and U.S. government and international partners in rural Afghan provinces.
At the provincial and district levels, USDA agricultural experts train local government representatives and Afghan extension workers in plant and animal health, natural resources management, and improved cultivation and production methods.
Additional USDA employees working in Afghanistan serve within the U.S. Embassy in Kabul as Foreign Service Officers and as members of the Interagency Provincial Affairs (IPA) section, which is the office that coordinates the civilian-military units deployed throughout the country.
Following his service with USDA in Afghanistan, Soiseth returned to Tulock where he will resume life as an almond farmer. He earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkley, a certificate in international agribusiness management from the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmadabad, India, and a Master’s degree in water resources and agricultural policy from Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute.
Currently, more than 50 USDA employees are living and working in Afghanistan, supporting agricultural revitalization there. To learn more, visit http://www.fas.usda.gov/country/Afghanistan/us-afghanistan.asp.
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