A team of Georgia National Guardsmen will soon deploy to Afghanistan on a special mission to revitalize the war-torn country’s agriculture industry. And University of Georgia agricultural experts will arm them with the knowledge to do it.

Later this month, 25 members of the Guard’s Agribusiness Development Team will visit the UGA campus in Athens to get hands-on training from specialists with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. During their visit, the guardsmen will be trained in agriculture-related areas such as irrigation, crop production, pest management, soils assessment, livestock management and food storage.

"This not a typical training session for us, but when the Georgia National Guard asked for help, we wanted to do all we could,” said Steve Brown, assistant dean for UGA Cooperative Extension. “While our scientists may not be experts in Afghan agriculture, the basics are the same worldwide."

“UGA provides the technical expertise and the experience for this education,” said Lt. Col. Ken Baldowski, media relations officer for the Georgia National Guard. “Afghans are using farming methods that are hundreds of years old in a soil that is depleted of all nutrients. The talent, expertise and knowledge that will be shared with us at UGA will help us to perform this important mission.”

“This is a very different mission for us,” Baldowski said. “While Georgia Guardsmen have been deployed to Afghanistan for more than 10 years, now we are arriving with technology and agricultural know-how to share with the Afghan farmers. We hope these methods and insights will help them produce crops to feed their families and possibly to create a viable agricultural export product.”

More than 70 percent of Afghanistan residents are farmers, but most lack the knowledge to produce viable crops and productive yields.