American Forces Press Service
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 Army 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 Army 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.
In other news:
-- Army Col. Scott A. Spellmon, Task Force Warrior commander, presided over the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team transfer-of-authority ceremony in Panjshir valley July 19.
Gov. Haji Bahlol thanked outgoing team commander, Army Lt. Col. Steve Lancaster, and his team of soldiers and airmen for their contributions, which included roads, schools, clinics and water projects.
Bahlol also acknowledged the contributions and sacrifices of Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Stratton, Army 1st Sgt. Blue Rowe, Air Force Senior Airman Ashton Goodman and Afghan judge Abdul Samadwho, who were killed May 26 after a suicide bomber detonated a bomb against their convoy. "The loss of teammates hurt," Spellmon said.
Spellmon welcomed the new team commander, Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Hommel. "While the accomplishments of your predecessors have been significant and they leave behind big shoes to fill, there is no shortage of work to be done, and we look forward to moving even further to the right on our governance and development lines of effort in the weeks and months ahead," he said.
-- Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, conducted their final humanitarian mission in Parwan province's Janqadan village July 12. Soldiers distributed books, stuffed animals, soccer balls and school supplies to a local girls' school. West Virginia, Ohio and Rhode Island residents donated the items.
(Army Pfc. Elizabeth Raney of the 4th Infantry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team public affairs office, Air Force Capts. Stacie N. Shafran and John T. Stamm of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team public affairs office, and Army 1st Lt. Lory Stevens of the Task Force Warrior public affairs office contributed to this article. Compiled from Combined Joint Task Force 82 and U.S. Forces Afghanistan news releases.)