War on Terrorism

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kentucky Guard ADT witnesses formation of first Afghan soybean farmers association

By Army Spc. James Wilton
Task Force Red Bulls

KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan (3/22/11) - The Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, and Nutrition and Education International, held an inauguration ceremony for the Kapisa Soybean Farmers Association at the governor’s compound March 17.

“Cooperation among farmers is the key to progress in Kapisa and throughout Afghanistan,” said Army Col. Hunter Mathews, Kentucky National Guard Agribusiness Development Team commander.

“Your formation of a soybean cooperative signals a great day for agriculture in Kapisa. By working together you will share in expertise, funding, and the use of soy processing equipment at a much lower cost than you would as individuals. This cooperation will make a positive difference in your success.”

The Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team joined the more than 100 Afghan farmers and representatives from the MAIL and NEI for the ceremony. The Kentucky ADT provided seed and fertilizer to the farmers earlier this year.

“By pulling together and working together, you are helping to turn Kapisa into one of the most progressive and promising agricultural areas in Afghanistan,” said Mathews.

“When I go home to Kentucky and America, I will speak often of the hard-working farmers of Kapisa who have banded together to make this province a more prosperous and productive community.” 

The MAIL will oversee the association in Kapisa, while the most experienced soybean farmers from the province will serve as directors.

Kapisa is the first province to form a soybean farmers association, but not the last. Soybeans are currently grown in all Afghan provinces, while northern provinces like Kapisa and Parwan boast the highest production rates.

The MAIL and NEI held a similar ceremony in Parwan Province on March 19 for the inauguration of a Parwan Soybean Farmers Association. The Republic of Korea Provincial Reconstruction Team – which is paying for and building a soy milk factory in the province –
attended.

NEI, based out of Pasadena, Calif., tested different crops from 2003 to 2005 for one that would be viable in the Afghan climate and a strong contender in the fight against malnutrition. Soy was selected for its high protein content and ability to flourish here.

This was the first time Afghan farmers had seen or grown soybeans.

“The Kapisa Soybean Farmers Association has joined together in order to educate the people of Afghanistan about the malnutrition and the way to fight it, which is with soy,” said Iman Muhammad Arif, Kapisa director of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock.

“Soybeans can be made into many healthy foods like milk, oil, naan bread and cookies. All of which are healthy and rich in iron and protein.” 

To help make soy a common food source in homes across the country, NEI provides classes on processing and cooking soybeans to Afghan housewives.

“The fight against malnutrition must be fought in the homes and by each and every person in Afghanistan,” said Dr. Steven Kwon, President of NEI.

“To rebuild Afghanistan, people have to work hard and study hard. If you make people healthier through better nutrition, then they can work harder and study harder.” 

He said the high demand and market price of soybeans coupled with the growth potential makes it a viable cash crop; making it a legal alternative to growing opium for Afghan farmers.

In 2009, Afghan farmers began producing enough soybeans to compete with other international farmers. These high numbers earned one farmer, Gluam Said, the award of Best Afghan Farmer in 2010.

Kwon said Afghanistan’s goal is to produce 300,000 tons of soybeans produced by 2015. He said he believes this is the amount that will end malnutrition in Afghanistan.

“You are making an important step for the future of Afghanistan. Because of you, Kapisa will defeat malnutrition, Afghanistan will defeat malnutrition,” said Kwon.

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