Empowering Agricultural Aid in Afghanistan

Agricultural aid workers in Afghanistan’s most rural areas have a new tool to help them help others, thanks to Wil Agatstein, visiting lecturer and executive director of the Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Mark Bell, director of the International Learning Center at the UC Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.

Agatstein and Bell received a $2.2 million, three-year grant from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service to create a web portal that provides development organizations with information on Afghanistan’s most pressing agricultural issues and opportunities.

“Specialists who work in Afghanistan have a high turnover rate. All the information they gather on farming techniques or animal husbandry is lost to newly arriving specialists, and an inordinate amount of time is spent reinventing the wheel,” said Agatstein. “Our challenge is to maintain continuity and disseminate information to aid workers in the field.”

Working with a team of graduate students and postdocs, Agatstein and Bell launched a comprehensive website in October, employing existing technology, the iPad and a customized application. It features easily accessed, quickly downloaded information, which the team will continue to update and expand.

“Workers can download the app prior to going to Afghanistan and carry the information with them electronically,” said Agatstein. “In the future we hope to be able to export this capability to help people in even more remote areas of the world.”

Agatstein presented this work in December at the 7th International Lessons Learned Conference sponsored by the National Defense University. He and his fellow panelists—Neil Chuka of the Defense Research and Development in Canada; David MacNeil, U.S. Special Operations Command; and Dr. Dennis Leedom from Evidence Based Research, Inc.—discussed best practices and new processes and methodologies for improving information dissemination systems.


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