Wednesday, 1 December 2010

ADT - an isle of sanity

I cannot say enough good things about the Agribusiness Development Teams that work in Afghanistan. These National Gaurd units come over with both a security and an agricultural unit, and work exclusively on agriculture development and education. The Kansas, Iowa and Missouri units work in, respectively, the provinces of Laghman, Kunar and Nangarhar, and I feel fortunate to have been able to work with all three of these as their strategy of education and government capacity development makes more sense than just building a bunch of stuff the Afghans may say they want but don't really know how to use. The top picture shows Kansas ADT COL Ditamo clowning with CPT McMullen, LTC Stockfleth, the Ag team leader for Iowa (and classmate of my wife's!) and LTC Legg, an attorney who serves as the Missouri Ag Teams lead. Both Kansas and Missouri are on their 4th unit here, enormously helpful for the continuity of their operations.

Courtyard and lunch tent at the Serena Hotel

The Serena hotel is Afghanistan's five star hotel (heard room rates were $800 a night) and while the conference room where the ag shura was held was stuffy and poorly ventilated (no wonder they test us for TB when we leave the country) the outside courtyard and lunch tent
was beautiful. The food was also outstanding - I had to go back to the dessert bar twice!

Ag Shura - day 4 at the Serena Hotel

The Ag Shura concluded on

Sunday, Nov. 28th with a large gathering of all the Provincial Ag Directors and their staff as well the Afghan national agriculture directors and coalition partners in agriculture development. Amb. Eickenberry and USDA Deputy Undersecretary Darcy Vetter spoke gave introductory and concluding remarks as well as Afghanistan's top Minister of Agriculture Min. Rahimi. The top picture shows Minister Rahimi and Undersecretary Vetter conducting am Afghan press conference during a break in the Ag Shura.

Bonfire at Camp Integrity

Most of the Ag Shura attendees stayed at Camp Integrity, a security contractor camp located near the airport. Its a new complex with nice buildings, great food, and single rooms. On the third night of our stay we had a bonfire and roasted Marshmellows for S'mores. From the Top, Rich Lasko (aka The Professor) gives lessons on the proper technique, Neal Westgerdes follows FSIS approved methodology for proper time / temperature control to assure food safety, and Dane, Gary, Rich and Bill enjoy the heat from the campfire on a chilly evening.

The gang of 6

Out of 8 of us that deployed together to Afghanistan on Dec. 3, 6 of us were at the Ag Shura. This group represents soil science, conservation, forestry, animal husbandry, veterinary medicine, and orchard management. Our group developed a pretty close friendship during our training and deployment - and half of these guys have signed up for another year.

More pics from the Ag shura

More pics from the ag shura - from the top, LTC Stockfleth and Engineer Safi present the challenges, priorities and opportunities in agriculture for the N2KL provinces, LTC Legg (Missouri Agribusiness Development Team ag team leader), Dr. Dennis Eaton (from Purdue University - he works very closely with the agriculture college at Nangarhar University), Engineer Safi and his staff, and Gary Domian leading the discussion with USDA agriculture advisers on their experiences working in the field. Gary was the recipient of an award in honor of a USDA employee who was killed in Afghanistan a few years ago.

Ag Shura - message from Amb. Eickenberry

Ambassador Eickenberry kicked off the ag shura with his account of his agricultural background. He talked about working on a tobacco, corn and soybean farm as a teemager for two season as well as the importance agriculture plays in stabilizing Afghanistan. Amb. Eickenberry is an accomplished speaker and us Ag Advisors greatly appreciated him taking the time to talk to us.