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 Jeffrey Lerum of Seymour, Wisc., recently returned from a two-year assignment in Parwan, Afghanistan where he helped to rebuild the country's agricultural sector.
Lerum used his knowledge in dairy science and experience with agricultural education 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 Jeffrey Lerum 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. Lerum are contributing their specialized skills to help Afghans rebuild their economy so that stability may take hold."
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, including Lerum, 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, Lerum returned to his hometown of Seymour where he currently works for Valley Agriculture Software. Lerum is a 1981 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture education.
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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