62 honored at USDA headquarters for their efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan
WASHINGTON, June 12, 2012 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently recognized the efforts of 62 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) employees who have helped revitalize the agricultural sectors in Afghanistan and Iraq. Among those honored during a ceremony June 4 was Kelan Evans of St. Louis, Mo., who served as an agricultural advisor in Kapisa, Parwan, Kunar and Nangarhar Provinces, Afghanistan, from 2008 to 2011.
"I’m honored to recognize these brave and devoted men and women for their tremendous service to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq," said Vilsack. "These USDA employees have played a vital role in furthering political and social stability throughout the world by building a foundation on which the economies of these countries will prosper."
USDA agricultural advisors began serving in Afghanistan in 2003 and Iraq in 2006. Their goal has been to help Afghanistan and Iraq rebuild their agricultural sectors by planning and implementing reconstruction and agricultural development projects. Activities vary depending on the needs of the area, but can range from mentoring local agricultural officials to improving food and animal production and marketing systems to veterinary infrastructure, soil and water conservation, and reclamation programs. Advisors working at the national government level help build the capacity of government ministries and collaborate with ministry staff to develop long-term strategies for agricultural development.
In Afghanistan, Evans helped women form an agricultural cooperative dedicated to growing saffron to create sustainable incomes. This project was so successful that it was replicated in other areas. Evans helped Albironi University in Parwan Province to improve its agricultural curriculum and create demonstration areas pertaining to cold storage, grape trellising and tree nursery production. Using his experience with Albironi University, Evans teamed up with the Missouri Agribusiness Development Team to help several secondary schools in Nangarhar Province. In the Tagab Valley in Kapisa Province, Evans helped form an agricultural cooperative with pomegranate growers, who eventually coordinated sales of their product with a newly formed juicing facility in Kabul. Evans works in USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and is currently serving as an attaché in the Philippines. He obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in forestry economics from the University of Missouri-Columbia. After graduating, he joined the Peace Corps and served in Paraguay.
Since 2003, more than 250 USDA personnel have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. More than 50 agricultural advisors are currently assigned there.
To learn more about USDA’s efforts in those countries, visit