A group of Georgia National Guardsmen will get a crash course in basic agricultural practices later this month to prepare them for an upcoming mission to help Afghani farmers improve their crops and their families’standard of living.
Over the past three years, a series of Georgia National Guard units — known as ADTs or Agribusiness Development Teams — have traveled to Afghanistan to work as international Extension agents. While some of the 20 or so citizen soldiers on the team that will deploy in the spring have backgrounds in agriculture, none of them have ever farmed in Afghanistan.
That’s where the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences comes in. The college’s faculty will help the guardsmen learn the skills needed to farm the dry, mountainous land in Afghanistan. The training will be held Sept. 24-28 at the UGA's Tifton Campus.
This is the third group of Georgia National Guardsmen who have trained with University of Georgia faculty for an Agribusiness Development Team mission. ADT III is made up of citizen soldiers from across the state, but they are deploying as part of the Augusta-based 201st Regional Support Group.
"The strategy most employed by ADTs is that of providing training and support to Afghan government officials so that they can then provide services to Afghan citizens," said Col. Barry Beach, of the 201st Regional Support Group. "Since the majority of Afghanistan's citizens are involved in the agriculture industry, the services they most need are agriculture related, which makes the work of ADTs critical to building Afghan government capacity."
Agribusiness Development Team II, which trained last fall, is currently deployed to Afghanistan. ADT I returned home from their tour in Afghanistan this spring.
They helped farmers organize marketing cooperatives, taught goat farmers basic veterinary skills and gave Afghan women the tools they need to raise and preserve food to help support their families.
Eight members of ADT I, from Augusta, Atlanta, Clarksville, Dalton and Ringgold are scheduled to deploy a second time with ADT III.
The team’s hands-on training in Tifton will cover basic poultry production, greenhouse cultivation, erosion mitigation and watershed protection, dairy cow care and milking, drip irrigation systems, bee keeping and goat care.
They will also receive a briefing from the currently deployed soldiers of ADT II via a web video conference on Monday. For more information about the training schedule and media availability, call Merritt Melancon at (706) 542-9724 or on her mobile at (706) 410-0202.