Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Provincial Development Council

The provincial development council PDC) meets regularly to review and approve development projects. Pictures show our departure brief, a few members of the PDC and a coordination meeting afterwards with UN representatives.

ADT garden at Finley Sheilds

The ADT started a garden near the motel to demonstrate drip irrigation. (Another motive: the production of tomatoes and cilantro for Sgt. Rios' salsa and pico de gallo!) Water in the bucket travels down the hoses and exits from small slits in the hose at the base of each plant. This water conserving irrrigation technology is quite useful in Afghanistan from everthing to kitchen gardens to commercial greenhouses.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Girls Scouts in Afghanistan

Every week on Saturday a group of colorfuly dressed young girls gather outside the base - Major Leventhal and Magda Ahmed from from the Nagarhar Provincial Reconstruction Team host a weekly girl scout program - quite popular as shown by the numbers of girls attending and growing all the time. One hundred and fifteen attended last week. The girls work on craft projects, sewing, etc. Many of these young girls show up with several of their younger siblings in tow - these young girls have a hard, difficult life and very little to look forward to as they mature.

Pumpkin Chuckin

Here's a trebuchet built by MAJ Battschinger of Civil Affairs - designed to hurl a pumkin over 1000 feet! Can't wait to see it in action! A battery powered winch pulls the counterweighted lever down, the pumpkin is loaded and the counterweight provides the downward force to rotate the lever and fling the pumpkin vast distances. Major Battschinger competes in pumpkin chuckin contests back in the US; great for him to share his expertise!

Farm Resource Management program

The University of New Mexico in cooperation with USAID is introducing a farm management program that combines crop diversification, forage production, soil enrichment and water management in a package delivered through the Afghan Extension. This program hopes to demonstrate sustainable agricultural practices that will improve yields, animal nutrition and the economic health of the ag sector. The pictures are taken from a recent meeting between the program implementers, the Agribusiness Development Team, USDA, and United States Agency for International Development. We'll help primarily by developing / delivering education and training programs.

A particularly touching picture from Ebony magazine

A son so glad to see his father - the things we miss the most in Afghanistan are the simple things.

More from the farewell dinner

Here are some more pics from the farewell dinner. Food and beverages brought to the diner as shown. And the picture of the food - it was absolutely fantastic! The grilled chicken was perfectly charred, lamb chops, interesting vegetable dishes, a mustard glazed roast....followed by home made sherbert for dessert. And even a pre - and post - dinner smoke from the hooka pipe!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

PRT farewell dinner

The Nangarhar Provincial Reconstruction Team went to a provincial official's house for a dinner party since the military part of the PRT will be leaving in late Oct. - early Nov. These pictures show some of our PRT staff - Rob Stubina (USAID) visiting with CPT Leen, and the CPT Danner, Major Levanthal and Magda Ahmad, our USAID representative on the Behsud District Support Team. The dinner was held outside in a beautiful grassy courtyard - CPT Danner said she had to actually feel the grass to see if it was real - covered with Afghan carpets. The chairs set around the perimeter were for the convenience of us guests as a place to sit to remove our shoes.
I have to tell about one of the most memorable stories from my experiences in Afghanistan so far. I was working at brigade and sitting in a development brief along with the brigade military and civilian leadership. The discussion got around to combat activity, usually referred to in the vernacular as "kinetic" activity. Major Levanthal was giving the PRT brief on that particular day. When asked about kinetic activity she responded the only kinetic activity she was contemplating was, in her words, "bitchslapping the provincial XO" because he had wrongfully accused the PRT during a social dinner. The brigade brief room was just rolling in the aisles and I had this vision of Major Levanthal grabbing this particular individual by the collar and treating him to what she described. She is such a friendly, social and positive person it was hard to imagine her doing it with anything less than a smile on her face.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Portraits - Afghan leaders from the past and present

We held a two day provincial budget training conference in the Nangarhar governor's conference center and these portraits of Afghan leaders from the past (and present - see the portrait of Karzai) hang around the perimeter of the hall. Some of these are downright scary.

A little Rock & Roll

Last month one of the Army's MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) bands stopped at Finley - Shields for a multi - hour dinner concert. These guys (and one girl - the singer) were really good - the guitar player processed his telecaster heavily and got it to sound like just about any guitar in the world; a very accomplished player as well. I listened to them play several songs - Sweet Child of Mine, Barracuda and really enjoyed them.

Visit to Behsud

Our first visit to the Behsud District Center - pictures show the district center itself, Mouhsen Habib (our DOS rep in the black hair and glasses) with the District sub governor and chief of police, and George Roemer (USAID) with the Ag extension manager (in white) and the Rural Development director (in brown). George and the extension manager got along famously - George owns a dairy farm in rural Wisconsin and milked cows and farmed over 500 acres for over 30 years. In spite of the language barrier George and Zabibulah discussed how to tell when soybeans were ready to harvest (you could hear the beans rattle in the pods) as well as common pests in crops. The Behsud district is heavily agricultural and raises rice, wheat, corn, a variety of citrus fruits, and vegetables such as tomatoes and cauliflower. This district is better equipped than most, having three computers in the rural development / ag office as well as desks and chairs. Zabibullah had spent three weeks in Japan studying rice production and proudly showed us pictures on his computer from his trip and the wonders he had seen (such as automated rice planters and vending machines that cleaned rice.) Afghanistan has a long way to go in most crop production but their rice yields measure up pretty well to international standards. We'll look forward to getting to know and working with the Behsud agriculture department; our relationship got off to a great start!

Unexpected packaging surprise

During the September project management training the ADT furnished some cookies purchased from a local bakery for a tea break. To our surprise we found out the inside of the boxes were labeled for Johnny Walker Scotch! - not a commonly found commodity in Afghanistan! We assumed the boxes were rejects purchased on the cheap, but it sure gave us all a laugh! Oh, and the cookies were delicious - and free of alcohol.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

September Extension agent training

The president's agriculture stategy for Afghanistan calls for connecting Afghans to their government, and the Missouri ADT conducts monthly training for the Nangarhar extension agents here on the base to build capacity, knowledge and value in the Afghan extension system. During September the extension agents discussed project management, an important role in Afghanistan development. Topics as wide and varied as ethics, budgeting, managing the progress / challenges / labor for the project, record keeping were covered in the day long session. We also learned from the Afghans more about the challenges they face in the field from community leaders, contractors and other influential people. These monthly exchanges help enormously in cultural understanding and relationship building in addition to the technical skill development brought to Afghanistan. Pictures show discussion between the Afghan extension agents and the Missouri ADT commander, COL Fortune; Engineer Safi (the head of the Nangarhar Provincial Agriculture Department) and Col Fortune passing out certificates of completion, and another picture of the Extension agents.