PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – A Kentucky National Guard Agribusiness Development Team funded project, managed by Roots of Peace, has put hundreds of thousands of food-producing plants at 10 different locations in the Panjshir Province.
Afghan farmers are growing cherries, almonds, apricots, walnuts, onions and many other types of produce thanks to the ADT Commander’s Emergency Response Program started in March 2009 with oversight by Roots of Peace, a non-profit organization dedicated to removing landmines and spreading agriculture in war-torn nations.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jeffrey Casada, ADT leader with the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team; U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Hancock, Kentucky ADT; and Jim Hoffman, U.S. Department of Agriculture advisor to PRT Panjshir, met with Roots of Peace Lead Extension Advisor Jean-Pierre Detry July 25 to visit some of the sites Roots of Peace is running in the province.
“We provide the funding, and Roots of Peace provides the teachers,” said Casada, a London, Ky., native. “They teach the farmers methods to be successful. They also follow through with continued guidance and training.”
Detry said the Roots of Peace project is successful for a variety of reasons, but the main one is “buy in” from the farmers and the people who buy trees from the farmers.
“If you give it away, it isn’t worth anything to the people here,” said Detry. “If a farmer needs a fence, we only provide it if he puts the posts in the ground first. When we sell the trees, we charge for them. It’s about one-half of a dollar for a private person to buy a cherry sapling. That’s inexpensive, but it still has value because he paid for it. Since it has value, he’ll care for it.”
Mhrab Udeen, a former mujahedeen general and the owner of one of the farms visited, said he got into farming for extra retirement money because his government retirement plan isn’t enough to support him. He is currently growing more than 8,000 cherry trees, 2,000 almond trees, 8,000 apricot trees and 2,000 walnut trees.
“I heard about Roots of Peace, and I wanted to make some money and help people,” said Udeen, through an interpreter. “I got the trees from Roots of Peace. They will buy all of these trees and share them with other people in Panjshir. They bring in fence, fertilizer and everything. I just have to do the work.”
Roots of Peace runs ADT projects in each of the seven districts in Panjshir except Paryan. The cold temperature and high altitude don’t allow the plants to thrive in that district. Detry said it’s important to work where farmers can be successful. The projects currently have a 90-95 percent survival rate for all of their trees.
With a high survival rate, comes high fruit yields, said Detry. The current market for cherries is $3-$4 per kilogram. A hard-working farmer could turn a large profit based on the 50-cent price for a tree.
“Especially in the summer when it’s so hot, you have all of the people coming here from Kabul for the holiday,” said Detry. “Farmers can sell their fruits with no problems. What they don’t sell, they can use for their own consumption.”
In addition to working in many provinces in Afghanistan, Roots of Peace also has projects in Croatia, Angola, Cambodia, Vietnam and Iraq. Detry said his organization will continue to expand as long as they have partners like the ADT to provide financial support.
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