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Tour helps Afghan officials envision better water management
Afghan tour 1
Afghanistan government officials working on agriculture and irrigation projects visit Fiscalini Farms, where Brian Fiscalini gave them a tour of the operation and highlighted the dairy's ability to generate energy from methane gas in their two anaerobic digesters. - photo by Photo Contributed

Despite the fact that they live on the other side of the world, a number of Afghanistan government officials took time during their tour of the Don Pedro Recreation Agency Visitor Center on Tuesday to remark that the California climate reminded them much of home.

“Since California has been hit by a drought, it is like the same type of climate we have in Afghanistan,” said Faisal Basir, project management specialist with the United States Agency for International Development Afghanistan. “Water is scarce here and so we want to see how you manage water.”

During the Modesto Irrigation District Operations and Local Agriculture Tour—which was part of an even greater California tour sponsored by the State Department, USAID, and University of California, Davis—Basir and other Afghan government officials from the Ministry of Energy and Water, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, and World Bank employees were exposed to new ideas and methods of irrigation and agriculture management, as well as regulatory constraints and scientific advances in the agriculture field.

“The goal of this tour is to show them how California is managing water,” said UC Davis Associate Director for International Programs Nick Madden. “They are going to have to figure out how to manage their water and get it to the end user just like California did. They have to go through the same process.”

Over the course of two days, the visiting officials toured Woodland Generation Facility, Fiscalini Cheese Company, where they received information on the dairy’s ability to generate energy from methane gas in their two anaerobic digesters, University of California, Merced, where they looked at instruments that measure snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and Blue Diamond Almond Facility in Turlock.

Officials also received water and electric resources presentations from MID, a UC Water & Sierra Nevada Research Institute Presentation, a climate modeling demonstration and a demonstration of water quality autonomous watercraft. In addition to visiting Don Pedro Reservoir, where DPRA Division Manager of Campground Operations Chris Collett gave them an overview of recreation at Don Pedro, they toured La Grange Dam.

“We’ll never forget this and we hope this relationship continues,” said Mohammad Hamidi, Ministry of Energy and Water Director of Irrigation Restoration Development Project.

In between examining different agriculture and irrigation projects, Afghan officials also visited Turlock City Hall to speak with Mayor Gary Soiseth, who hosted the tour on behalf of his position as Regulatory Administrator for MID.

“I believe the Central Valley is part of a global community and that it’s very important to share our history with other countries,” said Soiseth. “While living in India and Afghanistan, I saw firsthand the struggle to improve their agriculture and irrigation operations. These struggles are very similar to those that we face decades ago and I’m thankful that MID, UC Merced, local farmers and agribusinesses are willing to share these experiences in hopes of bettering a country on the other side of the world.”