Kentucky ADT continues to teach farming techniques in Afghanistan

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Courtesy of 2nd Lt. Jason Smith, Digital & Video Imagery Distribution System

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jeffrey Casada, Kentucky National Guard Agri-Business Development Team leader with Provincial Reconstruction Team Panjshir (left), talks, through an interpreter, to the manager of the Astana Demonstration Farm, Shafe Makli, in the Panjshir Province, Afghanistan. The farm, initially established in 2008, is a way for the American experts in agriculture to share their knowledge of farming with Afghans. (Photo by U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Holly Hess, PRT Panjshir Public Affairs)

PANJSHIR, Afghansitan (August 6, 2010)–

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jeffrey Casada, Kentucky National Guard Agribusiness Development Team leader with Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Hancock, Kentucky ADT, and Jim Hoffman, U.S. Department of Agriculture advisor to Panjshir PRT, oversee the Astana demonstration farm located in the Panjshir province.

The farm, initially established in 2008, is used as a teaching center for American experts in agriculture to share their knowledge of farming with Afghans. In addition, the farm allows the workers to experiment with crops that may or may not grow in the soil here without incurring any personal cost.

“Right now we have nine workers and a manager,” said Casada, a London, Ky., resident. “We pay the workers $6 per day and the manager makes $10 per day. We come out at least weekly to make sure the workers are doing a good job. We also handle any problems with pay, irrigation or other issues.”

The three-man team had multiple tasks on their July 8 mission to the farm. Among them were showing the workers how to use newly-purchased hoes, checking on contract warranty work, evaluating some of the crops and counting the total number of grape plants.

“We need to figure out how many grape plants there are because Roots of Peace, a non-profit organization that works to remove landmines and build crops in developing countries, will teach the workers how to set up grape trellis systems,” said Hancock. “We’ll purchase the posts and wire, Roots of Peace will set up one row to demonstrate how it’s done. Then, Roots of Peace will observe while the workers finish the rest of the grape vines.”

An Afghan worker waters grape plants at the Astana Demonstration Farm in the Panjshir Province of Afghanistan. The farm, initially established in 2008, is a way for the American experts in agriculture at Provincial Reconstruction Team Panjshir to share their knowledge of farming with Afghans. (Photo by U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Jason Smith, PRT Panjshir Public Affairs)

Although funded through the ADT Commander’s Emergency Response Program, the farm is scheduled to be handed over to either the Panjshir Director of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock or the Afghanistan Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock in February 2011 to become part of the nation’s research farm. Even after the handover, Hoffman said he expects to have a partnership at the farm.

“There are still things we’re working on here,” said Hoffman. “We’re experimenting with forage for livestock. We’re looking for animal feed that can be stored and fed to animals during the winter.”

Hoffman said that better feed in the winter will make for better lactation for cows and bigger, stronger calves in the long run.

Currently, the farm grows grapes, apricots, cherries, almonds, walnuts, hybrid poplars and other plants. The fruits of their yield aren’t significant at the moment, but Shafe Makli, farm manager, said he has big plans for the future.

“If it’s a lot of fruit, we’ll eat some and send most of it to the bazaar to sell,” said Makli. “Then bring the money back from the bazaar and put it back into the farm.”

Makli was a farmer prior to taking the job as the manager here. He said he knew how to grow crops before, but he has learned things at the farm that will help him be an independent farmer in the future.

The soil conditions are far from perfect and some of the techniques are primitive. However, Casada calls the demonstration farm a successful venture between Coalition Forces and their Afghan partners in Panjshir.

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