UMD Program Shares National Award for Work in Afghanistan

AREC professor Jim Hanson (back row, 4th from left) and Rebecca Ramsing (front row, far left) pose with US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack (far left). Hanson and Ramsing represent UMD as part of a team recognized with a USDA Secretary's Honor Award.

November 11, 2014 Sara Gavin

COLLEGE PARK, Md. –Faculty members from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland were part of a team honored this month with a prestigious award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for their involvement in a project aimed at improving the lives of women in Afghanistan.

James Hanson, Ph.D., an Extension specialist and professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, leads the University of Maryland’s Women in Agriculture (WIA) program. The WIA project prepares female extension educators and leaders in Afghanistan to empower poor or vulnerable women living in Kabul by teaching them how to provide food for their own families. It focuses on developing skills and practices like vegetable gardening, small-scale poultry production, composting to improve soil quality, postharvest handling, food preservation, preparation of nutritious meals and marketing agricultural products, all to increase food security for women living in some of the poorest areas of this war-torn country.  WIA is part of the Afghanistan Agricultural Extension Project, a collaborative effort with three other land-grant universities led by the University of California, Davis to assist Afghanistan in strengthening its agricultural extension system and stabilizing its agriculture-based economy.

Hanson, along with Rebecca Ramsing, food security and nutrition advisor for WIA, and Sophia Wilcox, Deputy Chief of Party for the WIA project, were all named in the group of recipients for the 2014 USDA Secretary’s Honor Award in the category of increasing global food security. Hanson, Ramsing and Wilcox joined their counterparts from the other three universities to be recognized at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on November 6.

 “These awards are the most prestigious Departmental awards presented by the Secretary of Agriculture and recognize exceptional leadership, contributions, or public service by individuals or groups who support the mission and goals of USDA,” said Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, Director of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).