By Air Force Capt. Peter Shinn
734th Agribusiness Development Team
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (4/27/11) - The Iowa National Guard’s 734th Agribusiness Development Team provided fruit production training for 16 high school boys from the Shegal District at the Bar Chage Demonstration Farm just north of Asadabad, Afghanistan, April 23.
The boys, dressed in matching school uniforms, waited patiently as the Iowa National Guard’s 734th ADT arrived to begin the training session—the first-ever at the team’s newest demonstration farm.
Iowa Guard member Army Master Sgt. Bill Dunbar, project manager for Bar Chage, breathed a sigh of relief.
“I was pretty sure we had this training all lined up, but you never know if things are going to go exactly as planned in Afghanistan,” Dunbar said. “I was sure glad to see the students on-time and ready to go.”
Three months ago, the Bar Chage Demonstration Farm was no more than a rocky field.
A partnership between Dunbar and Haji Hazrat Ali Gul, a successful local orchard owner—who owns the land where the demo farm was established—transformed the bare ground into a fully-functional orchard training facility, complete with more than 200 young and growing tangerine trees, in less than three months.
Gul was on-hand when the inaugural training session began, and he told Dunbar the training session represented the fulfillment of a personal vision.
“I am very happy to see these students learning how to plant an orchard of their own; this is why I offered my land as a training site,” Gul said. “Some of these children may grow up to be teachers, sub-governors, or one might become the president of Afghanistan.”
Said Obaidullah, a young Afghan agricultural professional employed by the ADT, provided the orchard training to the students.
Obaidullah covered what kinds of fruit trees grow best in Kunar, basic planting techniques and how to keep young fruit trees healthy.
Obaidullah, a graduate of the agriculture degree program at Nangarhar University, then guided the students as they each planted a fruit tree sapling.
“The students all got a lot out of this training,” Obaidullah said. “They all asked me, ‘When can I come back again and learn more?’”
Dunbar expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the initial training session at the Bar Chage Demonstration Farm, and called it “just the beginning” of the training he hopes will continue in the months and years to come.
“Today was a good start, but there’s a lot more training to come,” Dunbar said.