USDA Employee Lief Christenson Returns from Helping Rebuild Afghanistan's Agricultural Sector

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2012 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) announced today that Lief Christenson of North Bend, Wash. recently returned from a one-year assignment supporting USDA's efforts in locations throughout Afghanistan.

Christenson used his expertise in geology and hydrogeology to help restore watersheds, upgrade water conveyance systems and review dam sites. 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 Lief Christenson 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. Christenson 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 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.

Other 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.

Before Christenson volunteered to support USDA's efforts in Afghanistan, he served with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for 18 months in the country's Khost Province. Upon returning from Afghanistan, Christenson will resume work with the engineering firm Camp Dresser & McKee in North Bend. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1982 and a Master of Science in 1986 from Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash. Both degrees were in geology.

Currently, more than 50 USDA employees are living and working in Afghanistan, supporting agricultural revitalization there. To learn more, visit


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