More than 55 USDA Civilian Experts Currently Serving in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2011 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) announced today that Gary Hart, an area epidemiology officer with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Albuquerque, N.M., has returned from a one-year assignment in Afghanistan where he helped rebuild that country’s agricultural sector. Currently, 56 USDA employees are serving in Afghanistan. The growth of Afghanistan’s agricultural sector, which engages more than 80 percent of its workforce, is a key piece of the U.S. government’s strategy to stabilize the country.
“Because of brave and devoted employees like Gary Hart, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture is in a better position to deliver training in farming, herding, and land and water management to a growing number of Afghans,” said FAS Administrator John Brewer. “Whether their expertise is in forestry, soil and water conservation, marketing, agricultural extension and policy, or veterinary services, USDA agricultural experts are contributing their specialized skills to help Afghans rebuild their economy so that stability may take hold.”
Most USDA employees deployed to Afghanistan since 2003 have served as agricultural experts within civilian-military 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 Afghans and U.S. government and international partners in 24 of Afghanistan’s 34 rural 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. USDA’s primary role in Afghanistan is helping to build capacity within the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) so that it may deliver vital services to Afghan citizens and farming families. USDA currently maintains up to 10 agricultural ministry experts within MAIL. In late 2010, USDA officials in Afghanistan announced implementation of a $38 million, multi-year effort meant to help MAIL expand its human resources and build administrative capacity.
Additional USDA employees working in Afghanistan serve as Foreign Service Officers and as members of the Interagency Provincial Affairs (IPA) section within the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, the office that coordinates the civilian-military units deployed throughout the country.
Hart served as a USDA agricultural expert in Nangarhar province. Among his many accomplishments, Hart served as an important link between American philanthropist Howard Buffett’s charity and various non-governmental organizations in Afghanistan for the construction of the new Agriculture College at Nangarhar University. Hart was also recognized by the U.S. Army for his work with the National Guard’s Missouri Agribusiness Development team. Hart is originally from Hilliard, Ohio, and currently resides in Sandia Park, N.M. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from The Ohio State University in Columbus, with a major in agronomy. He went on to earn Master of Science and Doctorate degrees in soil science, as well as a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine degree, from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
General information about USDA’s programs and activities in Afghanistan can be found at www.usda.gov/afghanistan.