5/20/2012, Agriculture in Afghanistan, Kevin McNamara

Kevin McNamara (second from left) is working in Afghanistan to help improve the condition of Afghan agriculture.

While a hostile war may be brewing in Afghanistan, Purdue faculty members are exerting great efforts to helping improve Afghan teachers through a Purdue master's degree.

In America, receiving a college education will likely secure a good job, however, this is not the case in Afghanistan.

According to Kevin McNamara, assistant director of International Programs in Agriculture, a bachelors degree in Afghanistan is not even worth a high school diploma in the United States.

In 2005, McNamara started a program to help build a better relationship with Afghanistan by teaching Afghan faculty members to improve their education on agriculture that Purdue professors will help teach.

“We’re working within the university system to strengthen agricultural colleges; we have a variety of programs that are trying to build capacity among Afghan professionals,” McNamara said. “We need to help Afghans to provide linkages within their region, as well as with the U.S., by providing professional support and collaboration. In the long run, we want to continue to provide support.”

The program was established during a war, but according to McNamara, that is the least of the worries.

“We do have to be very careful, but the areas we are operating in are very safe and we have security protocols,” McNamara said. “Everything is hard to do there though. We had to rebuild two agriculture buildings, put water systems in, new bathrooms, new electrical. It’s just difficult to do everything.”

While it may be hard work to help the Afghans in their country, overall it is worth the work, according to James Lowenberg-DeBoer, associate dean and director of International Programs in Agriculture.

“Most of what we’re doing is rebuilding the capacity in agriculture education, “ Lowenberg-DeBoer said. “The program has helped very much. We now have scholars in other parts of the world. It helps us understand the world better.”

The program has helped implement a better education overall for the students who have worked within the program by improving teaching capabilities. Professor of agronomy, George Van Scoyoc, has been a part of the program since 2005 and has been a great reason to its success by helping educate new ways for the Afghan students.

“I think that what it does for them is open their eyes in new ways of teaching. We have a much more open relationship with our students and get more hands on experiences that they are accustomed to,” said Van Scoyoc. “It has been a really great group of people who I’ve worked with. It’s absolutely rewarding.”

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