PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (March 21, 2011) — Detainees participating in agricultural training at the Detention Facility in Parwan planted more than 50 apricot and almond trees at the DFIP Agricultural Center on March 19.
“Planting a tree is an action that never brings consequences but advantages,” said an Afghan agricultural instructor to detainees gathered at the farm. “It is an investment in nature.”
More than 80 detainees regularly participate in the agriculture training program offered by the DFIP’s reintegration directorate. Training consists of classroom and hands-on instruction on a farm within the theater internment facility. Classes are taught by Afghan instructors and participants learn about efficient irrigation methods, techniques to improve crop yield and methods to extend the growing season.
“The goal is to give the detainees new skills, techniques and appropriate technologies to increase their ability to grow food, either to feed their family, or to sell for income,” said Jim Conley, Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435 agriculture advisor.
Saturday’s tree planting coincided with the upcoming Nowruz holiday, which marks the vernal equinox and a new year on the Afghan calendar. According to their instructor, the weeks surrounding the holiday are a traditional tree planting time in Afghanistan.
Prior to planting, detainees listened to a short educational program that explored the value of trees to the Afghan economy and environment, and learned about planting methods and benefits trees can bring to Afghanistan.
The trees were donated by the U.S. based non-governmental organization Roots of Peace. Detainees worked in teams to plant the almond and apricot orchard. One person held each tree in place with a leveling tool while another used a shovel to fill the hole, and a third man patted down the soil and watered the tree. According to Conley, it will require two growing seasons before the trees will bear fruit, but after weeks of preparing the earth for planting, the men appeared pleased and took a moment to admire their work.
Other crops grown on the farm include grape vines and wheat, as well as greenhouse tomatoes, cabbage, spinach, and sunflowers.
Agricultural training is just one of several vocational programs available to eligible detainees. Classes in bread making, sewing and tailoring, as well as literacy and civics training, are also available at the DFIP.
Reintegration programs at the DFIP provide detainees with educational and vocational skills they can leverage upon release, providing the men a means of supporting themselves, their family and their village.
“My observation is that the detainees are generally quite happy to be on the farm and to be engaged in farm activities,” said Conley. “It’s a chance to get outside, and for those who are farmers, a chance to return to what they know.”
The DFIP, a state-of-the-art theater internment facility located several kilometers from Bagram Airfield, was completed in September 2009 and occupied by detainees in late December 2009. The DFIP is equipped with a medical facility, on-site family visitation center, vocational facilities and educational classrooms. The design of the DFIP accommodates detainee reintegration efforts and enables Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435 to better align detainee operations with the overall strategy to defeat the extremist insurgency in Afghanistan.
CJIATF-435, in partnership with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and U.S. interagency and international partners, conducts operations in detention, corrections, the judicial sector and biometrics. CJIATF-435 is conducting a conditions-based transition of detention operations to Afghan control while promoting Rule of Law practices.