Cultivating Afghanistan’s ag potential

To help rebuild Afghanistan’s agriculture industry after decades of war, troops of US military are being trained and sent overseas.

These farm-belt-state men and women are part of Agri-business Development Teams, which work to stimulate agriculture production and efficiency in the country as part of a counterinsurgency strategy.

More than 80 percent of Afghanistan's population has a connection to agriculture and 50 percent of its economy is based on agriculture, according to the USDA, which has a website devoted to the development of rural Afghanistan.

"Agriculture has been called 'the oil of Afghanistan,'" said Col. Roger Beekman in a War on Terror News story. "It's what they have now to create money with and sustain themselves with. At some point, there may be minerals in the mountains and stuff, but right now it's agriculture. And historically, this has been a good agricultural area, dating back thousands of years. The last 30 years have set that back, so we're trying to build that back up again."

Afghan agriculture products include saffron (used for spices and fragrance), honey, sheep, wheat, cotton, fruit and nuts.

Teams include soldiers with backgrounds in engineering, food processing, wheat farming, honey production, veterinary medicine and cattle and poultry production. Team members use an education and mentoring approach with Afghan farmers.

Members may also assist farmers in applying for ag grants to bolster farm operations.

One such team, the 734th Agri-Business Development Team of the Iowa National Guard, is personally dubbed the “Dirt Warriors” and maintains an active presence on Facebook. Its mission: to conduct agricultural activities in Kunar province that expand legal agribusiness, services, markets and ag education to reduce poverty, create jobs and build the capacity of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

One of its members, Pete Shinn, wrote about his experience in the province for

“There is also tremendous ag productive capacity here, along with some immediate opportunities to help local farmers boost yields. For example, a very nice looking corn crop is coming in on a half-acre or so right outside the base. The corn is tasseling and looks to be about six to seven feet tall. The farmer who seeded the field used a broadcast approach, so there’s not a cornrow to be seen. One of our efforts will likely involve demonstrating the production benefits that come from planting corn in rows.”

Team Projects
  • Building grain mills
  • Introducing new wheat seed
  • Developing canning and juicing factories for harvested vegetables and fruits
  • Building cool storage facilities to store harvested crops operated by solar panels
  • Overseeing micro-slaughter facilities to increase sanitization of livestock meat
  • Launching vet clinics focused on de-worming livestock
  • Advising reforestation projects
  • Increasing the crop yield for commercial use
  • Operating cold- and warm-water fish hatcheries
But before teams can begin work, they meet with village elders or leaders to demonstrate respect and to discuss the community's agricultural needs, reports a Tulsa World story, which often involves participation in culutral customs such as tea time.

American military will continue to use their civilian knowledge of agriculture to harness and bolster the capability of Afghanistan’s rural areas.

*Photo obtained from:

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