Guard soldiers help Afghans develop agribusiness

Friday, April 01, 2011

Soldiers from the Indiana National Guard’s 3-19th Agribusiness Development Team (ADT) have spent the last several months assisting Afghan farmers, and recently they taught a class on poultry management in Afghanistan’s Khowst Province.

The 60 National Guardsmen from the ADT support the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division’s Task Force Duke, home based at Fort Knox, Ky.

Skills and education among the ADT members include forestry, engineering, general farming, pest management, horticulture, marketing and education.

A mission to Combat Outpost Terezayi saw members of the ADT facilitating a class on poultry, an important component of the Afghan agricultural economy.

According to one guardsman, it was time and resources very well spent.

"There is a lack of understanding here on nutrition and vaccinations for poultry and other livestock," Chief Warrant Officer 3 Samuel Rance, rangeland manager for the ADT, said.

Rance helped coordinate the ADT poultry mission, designed to improve health management, vaccination practices and production techniques in the poultry field.

However, the ADT soldiers brought more than agricultural knowledge and experience to the poultry training location. Fifty chickens, very much alive and kicking – and purchased beforehand through Afghan contractors – accompanied the soldiers on the ride from Forward Operating Base Salerno.

Five chickens each were given to the farmers as an incentive to attend the training. Farmers spent a morning in the classroom listening to Haji Mohammed, the Afghan agricultural agent for the Terezayi area.

In all, there are 18 agricultural agents in Khowst Province, operating under the authority of the Afghan director of agriculture, irrigation and livestock, Rance said.

A $200,000 grant from the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, which allows local U.S. military commanders to devote funds to needed projects, helped fund the classroom instruction at Terezayi.

Remaining funds will be used for similar projects designed to provide additional poultry-related courses to area farmers. Follow-up missions will chart progress made in the interim.

Metrics for success, commonly known as benchmarks, previously hadn’t been established properly, Rance noted. Now, more focus will be put on safer, efficient and modern poultry management techniques.

"The farmers will learn that it’s important to keep accurate records on how many chickens were still alive, sick, eaten, sold or stolen," Rance said.

The training is designed to provide background knowledge for a five-day seminar to be held later this winter at Khowst University.

During the seminar, instructors will train 100 people in many of the same poultry techniques discussed at Terezayi.

The ADT will also facilitate future training in compost and forestry techniques. Earlier projects included the building of a greenhouse at the Afghan National Army’s Combat Outpost Parsa, located near the Army’s Camp Clark, which allows for controlled horticulture experiments.

Sgt. Brandon Reese, an infantryman attached to the 3-19th ADT, has farming experience back home. While many of the agriculture techniques that are taken for granted in the states are just being learned in Afghanistan, he now knows there’s a collaborative effort to help others learn the principles, no matter the distance or culture.

"It’s nice to know we’re helping. Our main goal is to put an Afghan face to the training, where they can conduct the training on their own without our support," Reese said.

(Editor’s note: This article is based on a story by Staff Sgt. John P. Zumer, Task Force Duke, 1st Infantry Division.)