The fifth pillar
Written by Nathan Gallahan   
Thursday, 11 March 2010 18:52

Padkhvab-e Shanah | Day 32 – It was a little strange being out in the province again after we’ve spent so much time in the major cities of Afghanistan. It was actually quite nice. I’m more of a country guy versus a city guy.

We headed out with soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team on a mission with a special Agricultural Development Team. It may not sound like a massive forward operation to clear the Taliban from their most well defended havens, but we learned agricultural development missions can be just as important.

The basic idea is these ADTs help Afghans farm better. Eastern Afghanistan is an agrarian society so a lot of their economic strength is founded on what they grow. If you can strengthen

their crops and the way they distribute them for sale, they will get more money and their quality of life improves. The better their quality of life, the happier they are and everyone wins. And if there’s one thing American’s know, its agriculture and the U.S. Army handpicked the ADT members we were with today from South Carolina.

The 173rd had spoken with the village farmer a couple times before, but today they wanted to talk to him about a specific idea. They wanted to ask him if they could lease some land from him to see whether they could get grapes to grow better on his land. Down the road, if the idea was a success, then they would teach all of the farmers in the area how to use the new method to improve all of their crops.

Expert grape grower I’m not, but from my understanding, the ADT went out thinking the farmer let his grapes grow on the ground and they wanted to construct some frameworks for the grapevines to grow upon. This keeps the grapes off of the ground so they grow better.

It turns out the farmer already kept the grapes off the ground, the best he could. He used a stick to prop the vines up. I took a picture of one, which can be found in the photos section. In the end, the farmer agreed to let the ADT try their experimental framework on two of his rows.

Hopefully the idea will work, because years down the road, local farmers could be growing a lot more grapes and if the grape farmers band together in an association, they could then export their grapes via aircraft to other countries where the markets are a lot better.

Right now, the farmer must sell his crops to this guy from Pakistan for whatever price he pays because the farmer has no way of storing the grapes to wait for a good market. Provincial recons truction teams in the past tried to give some farmers a way to store thei r yields, but it wasn’t successful because the key is sustainability. If you give these Afghan farmers advanced storage solutions based on electrical power, they need infrastructure to purchase the gas or buy the parts necessary to fix it when it breaks down.

The other aspect to all of this is the farmers need the ready, willing and able to accept those technologies. One of the ADT members was telling me how even in the United States, a lot of farmers aren’t willing to try new things or find alternate solutions because “That’s the way my daddy done it.” Same goes in Afghanistan, these guys have been working these grape fields for 50 years or more. They know what works and the ADT even acknowledge it during their conversation with the farmer.

At one point, the farmer was getting really excited about the idea and asked the ADT to construct the framework on all of his rows of grapes. They quickly refused not because they were cheap and didn’t want to, but because they really didn’t know if it was going to work or not. They told the farmer they respected his understanding of the land and his knowledge of growing grapes and this was all experimental. It would also be devastating to the farmer if they constructed all of the frameworks across the farm and the experiment failed. The farmer could lose his entire crop and livelihood.

The night Ken and I arrived here and started talking with our points of contact, they brought up these ADTs. I immediately thought of a U.S. Army major who said agriculture is the fifth pillar of counter insurgency. I’m glad we had to extend our trip and got a chance to hang out with these guys and see what they bring to Afghanistan.

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Comments (4)add comment

ritagirls said:

This is a Good writing, wow, it is wonderful,I'm interested in these right,Thank you for talking about this topic, I have benefited a lot from and also expect you to update your work!!!
December 28, 2010
Votes: +0

MAJ John Roache said:

SC ADT Visit
We really enjoyed your visit, i am glad to see that we have someone reporting on just everyday events instead of clips and cuts to spin the story one way or the other! Keep up the dedication to your work.... it shows. Stop in a visit us again anytime!!!
March 13, 2010
Votes: +0

Alan Krutchkoff said:

Grape visit
Very cool. Plus you had CSM Hall! You were in high cotton guys! How cool is that!
March 12, 2010
Votes: +0

dennis said:

A little surprised to see how they grow grapes.Not what i was expecting to see. At one time in history did they not make wine.? Somewhere I heard or read about it.
March 12, 2010
Votes: +0

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