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
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.
On Sunday, a team of agricultural advisers from the
Tennessee Army National Guard departed for a training mission in