American Forces Press Service
Jan. 21, 2009 - Members of the provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan's Nuristan province visited Zirat village this month to assess the effectiveness of completed projects and to develop ideas for future initiatives. Until February of last year, the main income for the villagers was earned by harvesting poppy. Since the eradication of poppy production, the villagers have turned to other methods to provide for their families. To assist in the effort, the PRT built a canal that feeds into the farmlands, allowing villagers to maximize farm production.
"With the canal, they are able to spread the water and grow wheat in the winter and corn in the summer, as well as saplings, fruit trees and nut trees that we planted for them," Army Master Sgt. Ryan Bodmer, PRT noncommissioned officer in charge, said.
Some villagers expressed an interest in sources of income other than farming. Kathrin Lauer, representative for the U.S. Agency for International Development assigned to the PRT, met with a group of women seeking ideas for potential jobs.
"What they told me was with the eradication of the poppy, they simply do not have enough money," Lauer, a Washington Terrace, Utah, native, said.
Lauer suggested the possibility of making money by learning an intricate Afghan embroidery technique used by women in Kabul and Jalalabad.
"An Afghan American, living in New York and working in the fashion industry, saw that the embroidery the Afghan women do is so unique that it sells well in the United States," Lauer said.
The road to improving quality of life in the province involves building from the ground up, Army Lt. Col. Lawrence Pickett, PRT senior civil affairs officer, said.
"The focus here in Nuristan is construction," Pickett, a Macomb, Ill., native, said. "There have been no schools or road networks built [here] in the last 30 years, so the PRTs are constructing new roads, schools and medical facilities that have never been in this province."
PRT members said they hope to build a better future for the province's people, once step at a time.
"We put in a tremendous amount of work in a day," Bodmer said. "We work from sunup to sundown and beyond. I know each and every one of us here is going to work hard toward handing over a better, safer and more stable Nuristan to the next PRT."
(From a NATO International Security Assistance Force news release.)