HELPING RESTORE A
In a country as volatile as Afghanistan, Kevin McNamara may have the most important weapon in the fight for stability — knowledge.
When the work of rebuilding the war-torn country began in 2002, an economy dependent on agriculture was found to be decades behind the rest of the world. Faculty members had titles, but not the credentials to back them up. And buildings at Kabul University were in near ruins. A team from Purdue led by McNamara stepped up to help.
Professor of Agricultural Economics and Assistant Director of International Programs in Agriculture
"Working in Afghanistan gave me insights into the world I didn't have. It's a place that needs help. These are people truly interested in learning."
KNOWLEDGE AS THE
FOUNDATION OF AN
McNamara, who spent two years with the Peace Corps in Afghanistan in the 1970s, has led Purdue's efforts to rebuild not only facilities, but also the base of knowledge necessary to create an agricultural economy in Afghanistan. "They were cut off from the world for 30 years," McNamara says.
Based on his understanding of the culture, an ability to speak Persian and multiple contacts with Afghan education officials, McNamara has become a leader in the agricultural rebuilding process.
A NEW ECONOMY
Agriculture will be the backbone of the Afghan economy. About 80 percent of Afghan people are involved in subsistence farming. As larger farms develop, Afghanistan is poised to take advantage of expanding markets in nearby India, which needs to import food to feed its booming population.
"There are lots of Afghan crops produced that would have a high value," McNamara says.
Indiana Guard program sends soldiers to Afghanistan on humanitarian mission to teach farmers how to improve agricultural productivity.
Kabul University has risen from the ashes. Buildings have been renovated and a student farm that had been fallow for more than a decade was rehabilitated, including construction of new irrigation systems.
Students have been sent to the United States and India to earn master's degrees in agriculture-related fields. They studied all aspects of agriculture, from production techniques through marketing, sales and economics. Today, those master's students are back in Afghanistan, armed with knowledge. Purdue faculty members are teaching them how to pass that knowledge on to incoming students.
"We're rebuilding the university to invest in young people and link them to the commercial agriculture sector," McNamara says. "These young people will provide the leadership for Afghanistan’s future."