Friday, December 09, 2011

Afghanistan: National Guard agribusiness development team helps Afghan farmers capitalize on livestock, improve livelihoods

By Army Sgt. Tamika Dillard
International Security Assistance Force

PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – As National Guard Soldiers rode down this narrow dirt road, with food shops to the right and clothing shops to the left, villagers from both sides of the street greeted them with large smiles as they waved peace signs back and forth.

This day, Dec. 3, these same Soldiers they see often roaming through their villages were not just passing through this time. They were making village calls in the small remote village of Jabbulsaraj here.

The Kentucky Army National Guard Agribusiness Development Team is currently working to improve the lives of farmers and connect them with their government through simple agricultural projects and outreach.

“Our mission is to employ the locals to do preventative medicines on their animals so the local Afghans see that their veterinarians are taking the lead,” said Army National Guard Capt. David Licciardello, the Kentucky National Guard ADT veterinarian. “We want the people of Afghanistan to know we are behind them by supplying them with the necessary advice, medication and care they need.”

Approximately 70 percent of Afghanistan is dependent upon agriculture, while most of their food base is dependent upon livestock, animal care and health. If the Afghan people do not have healthy livestock they are forced to look at other means for survival.

“If we teach the Afghan people how to properly take care of their livestock they will not have to turn to drugs or harming themselves or others,” Licciardello said. “They are learning if they follow the guidance we provide to them, their livestock can produce not only milk and food but healthy coats, wools and in some cases transportation.”

According to the U.S. Agency for International Development website, more animals are surviving at a much higher rate thanks to a USAID program that brings veterinary services to Afghanistan’s remote areas.

Throughout Afghanistan, USAID and the Dutch Committee for Afghanistan have trained more than 200 veterinary workers to care for the region’s flocks and have constructed 35 veterinary field clinics. The clinics are supplied with medications, vaccines and motorcycles, which are used to reach outlying communities. Together, the animal healthcare workers vaccinate an average of 50,000 animals each month.

“The supplies we receive for the different areas come from the Dutch Committee for Afghanistan,” Licciardello said. “They have a co-op of current and good quality vaccines they provide at reduced fees and in turn we would provide it at a low cost or no cost to the local veterinarians.”

Licciardello added that providing the vaccines at little to no cost gives the locals an incentive to treat their livestock. Otherwise the local herdsmen will not vaccinate their animals, causing a flock of sheep or herd of cattle to potentially die.

Diseases that are common in this area are foot-and-mouth disease, clostridium, endotoxemia and peste des petits ruminants, or PPR. These types of disease can be detrimental to a farmer who’s very dependent on his livestock.

“The foot-and-mouth disease is a severe plague for animal farming,” Licciardello added.

It is highly infectious and can spread by infected animals through aerosols, contact with contaminated farming equipment, vehicles, clothing or feed, and by domestic and wild predators.

Its containment demands considerable efforts in vaccination, strict monitoring, trade restrictions and quarantines, and occasionally the elimination of millions of animals, he said.

Over the past six months Licciardello has completed multiple missions throughout Panjshir, Parwan and Kapisa provinces, educating farmers about the importance of vaccinations and he loves the progress that has been made so far.

To date he has been involved in administering more than 140,000 vaccines to far more than 35,000 animals.

“It is great knowing we have made so many farmers realize the importance of vaccinating their animals,” Licciardello said. “When they look at their animals now and see they are healthy and stronger, they realize the true value in keeping up with the health of their herds.”

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