By Sgt. Tamika Dillard, USAREURDecember 7, 2011
PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Dec. 7, 2011) -- The Soldiers parked their large fighting vehicles in a single file line. The bodies of these large machines nearly covered the dirt path these villagers call roads.
This day, the Soldiers villagers see often roaming through their area were not just passing through; they were making calls in the small remote village of Jabbulsaraj on Dec. 3, in Parwan Province.
As the Soldiers climbed out of their trucks they were immediately surrounded by hundreds of village kids, grabbing them by the hand as if to guide them while asking in English how their day was going.
Some Soldiers stayed behind to talk to the local Afghan children, while one Soldier headed to the village para-veterinarian to restock the village's vaccination supply and assist him in vaccinating the village's livestock.
In the small village of Jabbulsaraj, the Kentucky Army National Guard Agribusiness Development Team is working to improve the lives of farmers and connect them with their government through simple agricultural projects and outreach.
"Our mission is to employ the locals to do preventative medicines on their animals so the local Afghans see that their veterinarians are taking the lead," said Capt. David Licciardello, the team's veterinarian. "We want the people of Afghanistan to know we are behind them by supplying them with the necessary advice, medication and care they need."
About 70 percent of Afghanistan is dependent upon agriculture, while most of their food base is dependent upon livestock, animal care and health. If the Afghan people do not have healthy livestock they are forced to look at other alternatives to surviving.
"If we teach the Afghan people how to properly take care of their livestock, they will not have to turn to drugs or harming themselves or others," said Licciardello. "They are learning if they follow the guidance we provide to them, their livestock can produce not only milk and food but healthy coats, wools and in some cases transportation."
According to the U.S. Agency for International Development website, more animals are surviving at a much higher rate thanks to a USAID program that brings veterinary services to Afghanistan's remote areas. Throughout Afghanistan, USAID and the Dutch Committee for Afghanistan have trained more than 200 veterinary workers to care for the region's flocks and have constructed 35 veterinary field clinics.
The clinics are supplied with medications, vaccines and motorcycles, which are used to reach outlying communities. Together, the animal healthcare workers vaccinate an average of 50,000 animals each month.
"The supplies we receive for the different areas come from the Dutch Committee for Afghanistan," said Licciardello. "They have a co-op of current and good quality vaccines they provide at reduced fees and in turn we would provide it at a low cost or no cost to the local veterinarians."
Licciardello added that providing the vaccines at little to no cost gives the locals an incentive to treat their livestock. Otherwise the local herdsmen will not vaccinate their animals, causing a flock of sheep or herd of cattle to potentially die very quickly.
Diseases that are common in this area are foot-and-mouth disease, PPR, clostridium, endo- toxemia. These types of disease can be detrimental to a farmer who's very dependent upon his livestock.
"The foot-and-mouth disease is a severe plague for animal farming," said Licciardello.
It is highly infectious and can spread by infected animals through aerosols, contact with contaminated farming equipment, vehicles, clothing or feed, and by domestic and wild predators. Its containment demands considerable efforts in vaccination, strict monitoring, trade restrictions and quarantines, and occasionally the elimination of millions of animals, he added.
Over the past six months Licciardello has completed multiple missions throughout Panjshir, Parwan and Kapisa Provinces, educating farmers about the importance of vaccinations and he loves the progress that's been made so far. To date he has been involved in administering more than 140,000 vaccines to well over 35,000 animals.
"It is great knowing we have made so many farmers realize the importance of vaccinating their animals," said Licciardello. "When they look at their animals now and see they are healthy and stronger, they realize the true value in keeping up with the health of their herds."
The lifelong veterinarian is set to redeploy early next year to return home to his five kids: his cat Dave, and four dogs Bill, Billy, Milly and New Guy.