Lessons for future generations in Afghanistan

Story by Staff Sgt. Sidney Hoffmann, ADT 5 Unit Public Affairs Historian Representative

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Master Sgt. Zakiya Taylor with Kentucky’s Agribusiness Development Team 5 stands with the daughter of a woman attending a canning class in Zaharay District, Afghanistan. The class, facilitated by U.S. Service members was a refresher course for local women to preserve foods for their families. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Sidney Hoffmann)

ZAHARAY DISTRICT, Afghanistan — Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team 5 has completed many projects with this humanitarian mission here in Regional Command South, Afghanistan.  One project they became a part of was a canning class facilitated by a U.S. Army Female Engagement Team from Fort Bliss, Texas.

The FET coordinated the location and ensured the information got out to the local women about the class.  Master Sgt. Zakiya Taylor of ADT 5 provided the instructor from Kandahar City and distributed the supplies, which included the steam pot, funnels, ladles, jars, jar lifters, and sealers.

“With the supplies, we were able to provide approximately 40 local Afghan women with the tools and knowledge necessary to begin canning fruits and vegetables in their own homes,” said Taylor, ADT 5’s food preservation specialist.

Reinforcing the idea of Afghans teaching Afghans, the team contracted with a young Afghan woman, Laila Afag, from Kandahar City to teach the classes.  A successful business woman in her own right, Afag co-owns three canning factories in the city and is an expert in teaching canning techniques for fruits and vegetables.  Additionally, six of the women were teachers in the local area and would be able to pass along what they had learned in the class to others.  Interestingly, one of the local teachers is a fifteen year old girl from Zharay, she was one of the few that could read, write and understand the material.  The teachers were excited to display their educational skills and Afag allowed the teachers to assist her in presenting to the class.

“The canning supplies we were able to provide will be for home use and the demonstration classes given by Laila Afag will help the women preserve their produce,” said Taylor.  “This makes them not only marketable in the future, but a sustainable tool to pass down to future generations.”

Since refrigeration and cold storage is not readily available in many of the local homes here, being able to store foods for longer periods of time is essential for the survival of the people.

Afag was highly motivated and proud she could extend her knowledge and services to this project.

“It is an easy craft; one they can pass down from one generation to the next,” she said.  “They will be able to can and preserve a large variety of food if done correctly.  The knowledge is there, because it is popular in this area.”

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Female Soldiers with Kentucky’s Agribusiness Development Team 5 gather for a group photo with women and children in the Zaharay District, Afghanistan. The Afghan women attended a canning class while some Soldiers helped with a children’s class. (Courtesy photo)

It is important to note these women are familiar with the process; however, the value-added is having the proper tools and focusing on sanitary techniques.

The class included the process of paste canning, pickling and fruits preserving.  Each woman was provided a handout to follow along with during the presentation. The material was presented at a very basic level, which provided beginners a jumpstart on making quality preserves without studying the science of preserving. The women were very interested in participating and learning about the canning process.  Afterward, many women stated they felt confident and certain they could effectively implement these techniques at home.

A high note of the event was when the Zharay District Governor, Sayeed Ashina Agha, and Director Bismullah Khan, District Education Representative, came on the last day of training to recognize the women and give them encouragement and support for their participation. Even though the Taliban threats occur and transportation is not always an option to get to Forward Operating Base Pasab, these women truly risk their lives to take advantage of the programs provided for them.

“There is nothing like seeing their smiling faces and knowing the team has done something these women will take with them for the rest of their lives,” said Taylor.

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