September 19, 2011
by Coleman Cornelius
A group of 10 officials from agriculture ministries in Afghanistan and Pakistan will meet with Colorado State University faculty members beginning Saturday to learn about irrigation and water-conservation practices that could help spark economic development in the war-torn region.
The six-day study tour is organized in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is part of a research effort called the Trilateral Watershed Rehabilitation and Irrigation Program. The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service recently awarded $500,000 to Ajay Jha, a researcher in CSU’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, to help lead the program.
“Our goal is to help promote sustainable agriculture in partner countries by exchanging information about irrigation technologies, and soil and water conservation practices, that can help improve agricultural production systems,” Jha said. “Helping people in these countries to manage water in agricultural settings is critical to food production and to the much larger goals of peace and prosperity.”
The trilateral program is linked to CSU because of climactic and geographical similarities between Colorado and agricultural regions in Afghanistan and Pakistan – including the challenges that come with water scarcity.
In addition, CSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences has longstanding expertise in soil and water conservation, especially as part of broader economic-development efforts involving farming and ranching.
Dovetailing with the Trilateral Watershed Rehabilitation and Irrigation Program is an ongoing CSU research project called Afghanistan Water, Agriculture and Technology Transfer, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and involves faculty in CSU departments of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Through the trilateral program, CSU agricultural scientists are helping to promote best practices and are contributing to improved stability in a region where knowledge flow, technological advances, and agricultural productivity have stalled in the face of war and strife, Jha said.
In addition to working with agricultural leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the trilateral program involves international field work and will train farmers to mentor other farmers so that vital information is transferred to local producers.
The study tour Sept. 17-22 will include stops at CSU and USDA research facilities on the Western Slope, in Weld County, and in Fort Collins. Before traveling to Colorado, the trilateral working group visited similar USDA research facilities in Texas.
The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, a program partner and funding agency, works to link U.S. agriculture to other parts of the world to enhance export opportunities for the United States and to promote global food security.
“This research effort demonstrates the pressing need to consider innovations in water management, land management, and food systems within the broader context of economic development,” said Craig Beyrouty, dean of the CSU College of Agricultural Sciences. “These interconnections are at the core of addressing world food demands.”