War on Terrorism

Friday, March 25, 2011

Young Afghan pros help Iowa ADT enhance agricultural efforts

By Air Force Capt. Peter Shinn
734th Agribusiness Development Team

KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (3/24/11) - The Iowa National Guard’s 734th Agribusiness Development Team began an internship program for young Afghan agricultural professionals here as the year began.

Now, members of the ADT and the interns themselves say the program is paying big dividends for all concerned, including Afghan farmers.

The Iowa ADT’s internship program is modelled after a similar initiative the Kansas ADT implemented in Laghman Province, according to Army Maj. Dwayne Eden.

Eden, who is in charge of the Iowa ADT internship program, had high praise for the two Afghan professionals working with the ADT.

“It is working out excellent,” Eden said. “They both come from Nangarhar University, and they know agriculture and the Afghan way, and they can speak with the local farmers.”

The young Afghan agricultural professionals, Said Obaidullah and Abdul Wali, both have undergraduate degrees in agriculture from Nangahar University. Both are 24 years old, and both have similar motivations for working with the Iowa ADT.

“I like working in agriculture because it is important to the development of Afghanistan,” Wali said. “This is the main point: when the country develops its agricultural land, this country becomes more developed.”

Obaidullah added that he takes satisfaction from improving the farming practices of everyday Afghans who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.

“We train the farmer, we show the farmer how to grow more, how to use the scientific approaches or the new technology that we use in our demonstration farms, which is where we train the farmers,” Obaidullah said. “It’s very good for us and very good for them.”

Wali and Obaidullah have worked on each of the ADT’s seven demonstration farms across Kunar Province but have spent the most time at the demonstration farm in the Chowkay District.

Army 1st Lt. Scott Shirk is the ADT’s project manager for Chowkay. He described the internship program as “one of the best things we’ve done” and said it was mutually beneficial for all concerned.

“It’s a win-win for both the ADT and the interns,” Shirk said. “The ADT has gotten more work accomplished utilizing the interns that are able to go out every day where we’re not, so that’s a win for us.

“And it’s a win for the interns. The interns are learning from us, we’re learning from them. And then also it’s a win for the local Afghan farmers, who are able to increase their knowledge from the training that we’re conducting.”

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Don Kuehl also works closely with Obaidullah and Wali. Kuehl, the ADT’s project manager for the Sarkani District, pointed to the internship program’s larger strategic implications.

“One of the things I like about working with our interns is the fact that when they’re out in the country they are a positive reinforcement for the ADT with the local population, the district governmental officials and the provincial governmental officials as they put a ‘best face’ on what the United States government is attempting to do for the Afghan citizen here,” said Kuehl.

Kuehl, Shirk and Eden each expressed feelings of respect and personal affection for Obaidullah and Wali. The two young Afghan professionals admitted they had not expected the integrity of the ADT members.

“Just the sincerity, the maturity of the ADT was a very big surprise for me,” Obaidullah said.

Wali was even more direct in stating how his opinion about U.S. forces in Afghanistan had changed since he began working with the ADT.

“Before I came to work with the ADT and American people, I thought, they’re very much liars; they’re not honest,” Wali said. “When I came here, I was very much surprised to find that these are very honest men, not liars at all.”

The opinion of young Afghan men like Obaidullah and Wali is especially important, Kuehl emphasized.

“The future of Afghanistan is actually in these young men’s hands right now,” said Kuehl. “If this country is to succeed, it’s going to be because of young men like Said and Abdul.”

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