U.S. Forces Foster Growth in Afghanistan
Capt. Jeffrey Mann shows students from Nangarhar University how to test for nutrients in soil samples during an agricultural development class on Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam in Afghanistan's Laghman province, July 9, 2009. Mann is a Kansas National Guardsman with Task Force Mountain Warrior's agribusiness development team.

WASHINGTON (July 22, 2009) -- U.S. forces aided Afghan farmers and villagers recently in operations aimed at cultivating a brighter future in Afghanistan.

Farmers in Panjshir province's Dara district will be able to store their produce from the fall harvest in a temperature-controlled underground facility for the first time, thanks to the efforts of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team.

The $45,000 project provides farmers with a place to store food either for personal consumption or to sell at markets. Potatoes, watermelon, wheat and other fruits and vegetables can be stored in the facility.

The storage room was built underground for improved temperature control and has a thermal-chimney vent system and a solar-powered ventilation system.

"We're all very excited about what this facility can do for us," said Zubair, a facility maintainer and local farmer. "This will extend the age of our products, especially over the very cold winter."

Panjshir is still without sustainable electricity, which limits food-storage options.

"From what we've learned, fresh fruits and vegetables often go to waste because there isn't a proper way to store them," said Sgt. Daniel Kelley, the team's civil affairs liaison to the Panjshir director of agriculture. "Hopefully, this facility will help the residents of Dara maintain a healthy food source for longer periods of time or even help them earn extra money."

The minister of counternarcotics in Kabul recognized the people of Panjshir for having a poppy-free province, awarding the $1.4 million in January through the Good Performance Initiative. The provincial governor, in turn, committed the money toward agricultural projects that will improve the sustainability of farmers and their crops.

As a result, the reconstruction team has increased its agriculture-related efforts, and now has 14 projects worth $1.6 million, with plans for another eight under way.

Upcoming projects include chicken, dairy cow and honey production; woodlots for construction and fuel; fruit tree orchards; natural tree nurseries for reforestation; a demonstration farm to teach new techniques; an experimental farm to test potential crops; irrigation canals; brown-tail moth control and eradication; and food processing.

Meanwhile, Army and Air National Guardsmen from Task Force Mountain Warrior's Kansas agribusiness development team conducted an agricultural development course July 12 to 16, at a research and demonstration farm on Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam in Laghman province.

Students from Nangarhar University learned more effective farming techniques during the five-day course. Classes included food storage and preservation, sanitation, irrigation, soil management, livestock care, preventive veterinary medicine and pest management.

"These classes are designed to teach future agricultural leaders modern techniques of growing, irrigating, harvesting and preserving their crops, as well as taking better care of their livestock," said Lt. Col. Roger Beekman, team commander. "If these students take just some of these ideas and work with local farmers, who will then put them into practice, we'll see a more productive and efficient farming society in Afghanistan."

Elsewhere, Afghan and coalition forces recently helped 40 villagers in Bartow build a bridge over an irrigation ditch in Uruzgan province to improve travel through the region.

They completed the project in about three hours. The force then provided the villagers with humanitarian assistance and tools.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16