Kentucky servicemembers help Afghanistan grow

 Story by U.S. Army Spc. Charles J. Thompson, Task Force Cyclone, 300th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

U.S. Army Sgt. James T. Griffin, Lexington, Ky., Kentucky Agri-business Development Team (ADT) Security Forces member, scans the Kafshan Valley while providing security for fellow ADT Soldiers. Sgt. Griffin and the ADT are in the Kafshan Valley listening to village elders and local inhabitants finding out the agricultural needs of the area. (U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. David W. Elmore, Task Force Cyclone, 38th Infantry Division)

Members of the Kentucky Army and Air National Guard formed  Kentucky’s first joint Agri-business Development Team (ADT) that deployed to Afghanistan in August 2009 to help the country develop and improve its agriculture industry.

This specialized unit is made up of Soldiers and Airmen from different backgrounds throughout The Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Around 80 percent of Afghanistan’s populous is connected to the agriculture industry. The ADT has spent its deployment educating the local farmers and government on how to increase productivity and market share, manage natural resources and chain management in Parwan, Panjshir, Kapisa and Bamyan Provinces.

As a result, the production of potatoes and onion has greatly increased in the Bamyan province.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. William T. Ewing, a native of Harrisburg, Ky., has a degree in Entomology and works with the Agricultural team.

“The Afghan people can grow a lot of crops,” said Ewing. “They are actually producing more than they consume or export, and we are teaching them how to export and store their crops longer.”

With the help of the ADT,  pomegranate farmers in the Tagab District of the Kapisa Province were able to export their crops to India and Dubai receiving three times their normal price for the crops.

Educating the people on natural resource management has been a key point of the ADT. Things such as irrigation and reforestation are areas that will greatly improve the agricultural industry in Afghanistan.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ray Norris, from Scottsburg, In., assigned to the 123rd Airlift Wing in Louisville, Ky., grew up on a family farm and volunteered to deploy with the ADT to help the people of Afghanistan.

Norris spent some time in the Yakalong District of the Bamyan Province where there is an eroded canal that waters approximately 800 family farms.

“There are not many organizations in this area helping the people,” said Norris. “We are working on getting the materials so the people can repair it themselves. The people really need the help.”

The ADT works with the Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), and the Director of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (DAIL) at the provincial levels in the Parwan, Panjshir, Bamyan and Kapisa Provinces.

U.S. Army Col. Mike D. Farley, from Corbin, Ky., is the commander of the ADT and is glad to be a part of this important and unique mission.

Some statistics people don’t know is that one of every five children in Afghanistan will not reach the age of five because of malnutrition, he said.

“We are here to help the people increase the nutritional value in the country and sustain a better and healthier lifestyle,” Farley said.

We are working directly with the MAIL and the DAIL’s, to give them the knowledge to help their people, he said.

There is no way we can touch every farmer in Afghanistan, but the DAILs can, and they are going to be the voice of the farmers when they have problems, he said.

The ADT also works with the women of Afghanistan, teaching them things they can do at home to improve their family lifestyle.

U.S. Army Sgt. Jo Lisa Ashley, of Eubank, Ky., is the ADT’s Womens Empowerment coordinator for the team.

“Most women here work at home, they take care of their families and the household duties,” said Ashley. “I work with them on projects that they can do at home to bring in extra income.”

The Afghan government is working side-by-side with Ministry of Women’s Affairs and they are doing a great job about going out and showing that they support these programs for the women, she said.

The ADT will spend about five more months here in Afghanistan before they are replaced by ADT 2, releasing them so they can return home to their loved ones.

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