By U.S. Air Force Capt. Stacie N. ShafranJuly 22, 2009
PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - For the first time, farmers in the Dara district will be able to store their produce from the fall harvest in a temperature-controlled, underground storage facility.
The Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team facilitated this $45,000 project, which provides farmers with a place to store food either for personal consumption or to sell at markets.
The storage room was built underground for improved temperature control. It also has a thermal chimney vent system and a solar powered ventilation system.
Panjshir is renowned for its agriculture-based society, and food items such as potatoes, watermelon, wheat and other fruits and vegetables can be stored in this facility.
Dara resident Zubair not only maintains the facility, but is also a farmer.
"We're all very excited about what this facility can do for us," he said. "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," explained Army Sgt. Daniel Kelley, the PRT's civil affairs liaison to the Panjshir director of agriculture, who is deployed from the 426th Civil Affairs Battalion in Upland, Calif. "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."
Recognized for being a poppy-free province, in January the minister of counternarcotics in Kabul, through the Good Performance Initiative, awarded Panjshir's governor, Haji Bahlol and the people of Panjshir $1.4 million. The governor, in turn, committed the money toward agricultural projects which will improve the sustainability of farmers and their crops.
Keeping in line with the governor's commitment to agriculture, the PRT increased its number of agriculture-related projects. The team contributed additional funding and now has 14 current agricultural projects worth $1.6 million scheduled for Panjshir, with another eight more planned.
Projects include chicken and dairy cow production, 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.