BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (January 17, 2009) — The Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team recently visited Zirat village to assess the effectiveness of completed projects and work with villagers on solutions for overcoming hardships.
Until February of last year, the main income for the villagers was earned by harvesting poppy. Since the eradication of poppy production the villagers have turned to other methods to provide for their families.
To assist in the effort, the PRT recently constructed a canal that feeds into the villager’s farmlands, allowing them to maximum their farmland.
“[With] the canal they are able to spread the water and grow wheat in the winter and corn in the summer as well as saplings, fruit trees and nut trees that we [planted] for them,” said Master Sgt. Ryan Bodmer, PRT noncommissioned officer in charge, and a Temecula, Calif., native.
Farming is not the only means of financial income for the villagers. Kathrin Lauer, the U.S. Agency for International Development representative assigned to the PRT, met with a group of women whom expressed an interest in earning an income.
“What they told me was with the eradication of the poppy, they simply do not have enough money,” said Lauer, a Washington Terrace, Utah, native.
Lauer suggested the possibility of making money by learning an intricate Afghan embroidery technique used by women in Kabul and Jalalabad to earn up to $300 a month.
“An Afghan American, living in New York and working in the fashion industry saw that the embroidery the Afghan women do is so unique that it sells well in the United States,” said Lauer.
Financial and irrigation issues in Zirat are only a fraction of the obstacles the PRT must overcome in Nuristan, often referred to as the “forgotten province”.
To Lt. Col. Lawrence Pickett, executive officer and PRT senior civil affairs officer, the only thing to do in Nuristan is build from the ground up.
“The focus here in Nuristan is construction. There have been no schools or road networks built [here] in the last 30 years, so we the PRT, like our predecessors, are constructing new roads, schools and medical facilities that have never been in this province,” said Pickett, an Macomb, Ill., native.
Things are looking up for the people of Nuristan as giant steps forward are being made every day.
“We put in a tremendous amount of work in a day,” said Bodmer. “We work from sun up to sun down and beyond. I know each and every one of us here is going to work hard toward handing over a better, safer and more stable Nuristan to the next PRT.”