Georgia National Guard
WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan (3/22/12) - During a recent mission to Wardak Province, the Georgia National Guard Agribusiness Development Team hosted a two day training event for Wardak associations, cooperatives, small business owners and government staff. In attendance at the training were local farmers and business men.
The purpose of the training was to teach the Afghans how to effectively run their associations and cooperatives like small businesses.
Event trainers included Army Col. Bill Williams, the Georgia ADT commander, Army Lt. Col. John Church, Ag Team officer in charge, Army Sgt. Maj. Lynward Hall, Ag Team non-commissioned officer in charge and Army Sgt. Carmen Benson, the team horticulturist.
“The topics we covered can get very [advanced],” Hall said. “We broke it down to a level the Afghans would understand. We also provided them with handouts to follow along.”
An association is a group of entrepreneurs that come together to use their strength in numbers to influence and lobby government policies, and to improve their negotiating powers in regards to getting better pricing on their fruits and vegetables. Cooperatives are similar to associations but they are more dependent on the government for assistance.
Since about 80-percent of the population in Afghanistan is involved in agriculture, associations and cooperatives can help develop the infrastructure in an area.
“One of our goals is to develop strong and sustainable associations,” Church said. “We want quality, not quantity when it comes to associations and cooperatives.”
In Wardak Province there are currently a growing number of associations and cooperatives.
These groups range from wheat seed associations to greenhouse associations. The training that the ADT hosted covered topics on leadership roles and responsibilities, business planning, good business practices, and how to conduct meetings.
“If the Afghans can manage their associations in a businesslike manner, then they will be setting themselves up for success,” Church said.
When the Georgia ADT hosts a training event, they often will provide lunch for the attendees.
During this particular event, members from five associations and 16 cooperatives stayed back after lunch to share ideas with one another and exchange contact information. This was a significant event because it showed that the Afghans are learning to work together.
“The training event was definitely a success,” said Benson.
He said he hopes all those that were in attendance took something away from the training. “We all look forward to working with them in the future.”