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Nangarhar ADT works to expand access to quality agriculture education

By Capt. Dale Edith Mitchell , RC-East PAO

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NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (April 9, 2012) — With support from the Nangarhar Agribusiness Development Team, the Afghan Ministry of Education celebrated another important milestone in their quest to provide all children in the nation equal access to a quality education.

With scissors in hand, Dr. Alla dat Ismail Zai, Nangarhar’s Provincial Director of Education, urged his countrymen to welcome a new dawn in Afghanistan.  The ribbon he then symbolically cut marked this dawn, as the first agriculture high school to be located in the district of Rodat opened its doors.

Over his first year of tenure, Director Alla dat, has worked tenuously to strategically place new schools in locales that support the proliferation of knowledge in areas previously overlooked due to remoteness.

“The goal of our ministry is to provide all of our nation’s children with a quality, free public education.  Thanks to the support of our coalition force counterparts like the ADT, we are able to make positive strides towards achieving our first goal of providing adequate access to educational facilities,” said Alla dat.

In recognizing that education plays the most vital of roles in securing economic and social stability for Afghanistan, Nangarhar ADT V Commander, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Brent Beckley placed a high emphasis on initiatives focused on creating an environment that encourages formation of a sustainable agriculture education system.

“In order to secure a brighter future for Afghanistan, we must encourage and enable an environment supportive of private sector development and growth,” said Beckley.  “The establishment of sound educational systems is vital to encouraging forward thinking ideas necessary to propel Afghanistan’s markets back into both regional and world economies,” continued Beckley.

The mission of the Nangarhar ADT, a Missouri National Guard Team, is to focus on initiatives that build the capacity of the Nangarhar Director of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock.  Through the development, refinement and adoption of formal and informal governance capabilities, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) will continue to prosper and grow sustaining itself with negligible support from outside sources.

“Afghanistan has a limited quantity of arable farmland, investments in agriculture education will ensure tomorrow’s farmers and agribusiness leaders have the knowledge necessary to farm smarter”, commented Beckley of Jefferson City, Mo.

“The nation’s economy is almost solely dependent on agriculture for vitality; national development objectives are likewise dependent on the purveyance of sustainable agriculture development,” continued Beckley.

Increasing access to formal agriculture education systems affecting school-age students; increasing efficacy of the teacher corps and government agricultural officials as well as providing needed inputs to established public higher education sources such as the Nangarhar University School of Agriculture, has been the major focus under Beckley’s administration.

“Education is the conduit for the change necessary to support not only the profitability of the country, but to also ensure the government is able to provide for its citizens.”

The ADT asserts that investing in supporting the construction of building quality educational sources, such as the Rodat Agriculture High School will ensure broader opportunities for the future leaders of Afghanistan.

The Rodat Agriculture High School, located centrally within a rural agrarian community will service students from a total of seven outlying communities.  At the time of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the school already boasted pre-enrollment of over 85 students.

Using stock building designs supplied by the Afghan Ministry of Education, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Cody Waters, Civil Engineer, with the input of U.S. Army Capt. Allan Sharrock, agriculture educator by trade, developed a school building plan conducive to meet current educational needs while allowing for future expansion.

Along with lecture spaces and teacher work areas, the grounds support demonstration plots and orchard space allowing instructors to enhance their curriculum through the use of hands on experiential training.

With active community participation, Waters incorporated the ideas of the people benefiting from this project, in working with the GIRoA established District Development Plan (DDP) Shura.  The DDP is a governing body that exists to provide critical oversight to development projects planned within their respective communities of operation.

As the ribbon-cutting ceremony began, Waters looked on with pride as the community turned out in full force to rally around the joint ADT, GIRoA and community effort to bring the freedom provided by education to this small community’s doorstep.  Over 200 supporters both Afghan and coalition, young and old, joined together as one in prayer and feast.

In closing comments during the final portion of the festivities, Director Alla dat looked upon the future students of this high school urging them to be present active participants in the future of Afghanistan.

“The only thing that will rescue our country from terror and ignorance is knowledge and education.  You are our future.  Take advantage of every opportunity you find on these school grounds and beyond.”

The Nangarhar Agribusiness Development Team, based out of the Missouri National Guard, has been operating within the Nangarhar province since 2007.  Since the team’s inception, their projects have brought new life to the agriculture situation within Nangarhar, ensuring a foundation for peace and stability within Afghanistan.