|US Agriculture team boosts Afghanistan's development, productivity|
By Senior Airman Chris Willis, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (January 9, 2013) — The Georgia National Guard's Agriculture Development Team continues to move forward improving the agriculture productivity and economic development in eastern Afghanistan.
Agriculture is the main source of income for most Afghans, but years of war have prevented experienced farmers from teaching the best procedures to the next generation.
The ADT's goal is to increase agriculture productivity by increasing farmer's access to inputs and effective services while increasing the Afghans' confidence in their local government.
Tech. Sgt. Kody Jorgensen and Staff Sgt. Zachery Williams, both veterinary technicians, are the only Air Force members of the Georgia ADT working out of Forward Operating Base Shank.
"We mainly hold our training in the local district centers," said Jorgensen, a member of the Tulsa Air National Guard, Okla. "This allows the farmers to meet with the local officials while we hold our classes."
The farm life is not new to both Airmen. They grew up on farms and have degrees in agriculture production.
"We are not here to show them how to farm but to show ways to improve their process to maximize the products," said Williams, deployed from Robins Air Force Base, Ga.
Recent training has focused on hoof care, castration and sheering for domestic animals, while previous classes taught about livestock medications and proper administration and usage.
The team also focuses on education and long-term projects. The goals are not to just help the Afghans for a season, but to teach them to build businesses that will pay for themselves in seasons to come.
The training gatherings also assist in establishing a communication line for the rural farmers. Since transporting goods is expensive in Afghanistan, the farmers meet up at the training sessions to talk about moving their goods together to offset the cost.
"We can tell this training is really important to them," said Williams. "This is how they feed their families, so they are willing to learn new processes and tools that can further assist them in the future."
Participating farmers leave with a toolkit of equipment and how-to pamphlets on ways to utilize them.
"One of the more popular tools among the farmers is the castration equipment," said Jorgensen. "The Afghans don't like to see the blood so the tool only pinches off the connection instead of removing the testicles."
Some of the first classes could barely fill a room of 30 seats but have increased to more than 130 attendees. The training has received overwhelmingly positive reviews not just from the farmers but also from district and provincial officials.
"I enjoy working and learning with the local farmers," said Jorgensen. "We are lucky we get to help with something so important to them."
Improving the quality of life for the local communities has servicemembers and the Afghan government working together, growing the future of Afghanistan.