Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tennessee Agricultural Advisers Head to Afghanistan

Posted By on Tue, Jan 20, 2009 at 10:00 AM

click to enlarge Afghan_20farmer-thumb-200x183.jpg
On Sunday, a team of agricultural advisers from the Tennessee Army National Guard departed for a training mission in Indiana before shipping out to Afghanistan. Once there, the Agri-business Development Team (ADT) will teach rural Afghans how to grow something other than poppies for opium production and get their goods to market.

There's a story in the Tennessean about what the ADTs do, but it's only eighty-five words long. While in Afghanistan I received a short briefing on what these folks do, and I think it deserves a little more space, especially given the nature if the war.

Last year an ADT team from Texas spent the summer in Wardak Province, west of Kabul. They built demo farms, wind turbines, constructed mini-dams and dealt with irrigation issues--a major problem in a land-locked country with a big-time water shortage.

The Texas ADTs also reseeded grasslands that have been grazed to dirt and brought an agribusiness specialist to teach locals about how co-ops work. The business side of the ADT's mission is just as important as the planting and harvesting. If folks can't create a sustainable market for their goods, they'll just go back to growing dope.

Other ADTs have built slaughter houses, revolutionizing the way entire regions process their meat, no small thing if you've ever seen (or smelled) the old way of doing things.

While these are good ideas, when the ADT program is viewed through the broader prism of the U.S. role in the region, their importance grows tenfold.

The conflict in Afghanistan has in many ways become a propaganda war. We are attempting to convince Afghans that the U.S. backed central government in Kabul--as opposed to the Taliban alternative--is good for the entire country by providing security and building civil and agricultural infrastructure. A blossoming agricultural sector would go a long way toward convincing average Afghans--eighty percent of whom work in agriculture--that the current regime is preferable to any alternative.

While this latest ADT team may just be a handful of farmers from the Volunteer State, their mission goes to the heart of the entire U.S. initiative in Afghanistan.

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