Thursday, December 15, 2011

Afghanistan: Indiana Guard members train farmers in Khowst

By Army Maj. Mary Shaw
Combined Joint Task Force 1 - Afghanistan

KHOWST PROVINCE  – Since November, more than 400 Khowst farmers have taken part in training focused on improving local knowledge of livestock nutrition and proper application of vaccines and medicine.

To help local farmers improve their situation and help bolster the economy, the Indiana National Guard’s 4-19th Agribusiness Development Team sponsored classes taught by local livestock specialists from Sheikh Zayed University in Khowst City.

Khowst is heavily reliant on livestock and agriculture, but the region’s propensity for drought and disease, as well as the security situation make this agrarian economy unstable.

Prior to developing this training, the ADT, along with the district Agricultural Extension Agents, assessed livestock issues in each district in order to design classes to meet the specific needs of the local farmers. For example, in Sabari district, the training focused on cattle health and nutrition while in Tani district, the farmers received instruction on raising goats and sheep.

“The practices that are being trained are not new concepts to the Afghan farmer, but tweaking existing practices,” said U.S. Army Capt. Michael Brandt, the ADT’s training program manager from Fort Wayne, Ind. “Afghanistan's farmers currently feed wheat straw as fodder. By teaching to treat the straw with urea fertilizer, value is added to an existing practice that will have substantial benefit to the farmer and livestock.”

Each course is six days long, and participating farmers leave with a tool-kit of equipment they’ll need to take home.

The training has received overwhelmingly positive reviews not just from the farmers but also from district and provincial officials. Many district governors said they would like to see even more training on animal care.

“The training was perfect,” said Nazifullah, the agricultural extension agent from Matun district. “These farmers will be expected to share their new-found knowledge with other livestock owners which will provide a link between their villages and the district veterinarians and para-vets.

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