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Afghanistan - USDA Agricultural Advisor Returns from Two Year Deployment

Highlights in Conservation icon

Afghanistan - USDA Agricultural Advisor Returns from Two Year Deployment

Greg Schlenz looking at Spring Wheat with local Afghan Farmer, Obdara Village, Panjshir Province, Afghanistan

Greg Schlenz looking at Spring Wheat with local Afghan Farmer, Obdara Village, Panjshir Province, Afghanistan.

Location icon
 Dashtak city, Panjshir Province county

Project Summary icon
USDA Assisting Agriculture in Afghanistan

Conservation Partners icon
USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), DoD (Department of Defense), USAID (United States Agency for International Development), DoS (Department of State), Afghan Provincial Agriculture Department & Local Farmers and Ranchers.

Resource Challenges icon
Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) "lion" located at Forward Operating Base FOB-Loin in the heart of the Hindu Kush Mountains in the Panjshir Valley (6 to 10,000' elevation). Working in a war zone following nearly 40 years of conflict - that had destroyed irrigation canals, orchards and left many aspects of agriculture in shambles. 90% of farmers in Panjshir Province practice subsistence agriculture. When the Russians occupation started in 1979 many key leaders from all levels of government fled the country. Assisting with establishing local, area & national government structure once again in a predominately tribal/ethnic cultural society is a challenge. Building trust at all levels of government & between all afghan's.

Conservation Program Used icon
DoD CERP (Commanders Emergency Response Program), USAID Programs, Non Government Organizations & Private donations funds.

Innovations and Highlights icon
Afghan farmers are very appreciative of assistance in bringing their agriculture back from the destruction of the past 40 years with improved varieties of wheat, corn and other crops. Over 90% of the farmers in the Panjshir Valley practice subsistance agriculture. Showing them how to row crop instead of hand sowing/broadcasting and fertilizing, improved yields with less pest, disease and problems. Establishing orchards (apple, apricot, almond, pear, cherry & others) that had been destroyed during the Russian Occupation. Establishing hybrid poplars for fuelwood for heat and cooking - they use animal manure to supplement as a fuel source because many areas have been deforested during the past 40 years. Establishing an Ag Experimental Farm to test crops that had not been tried in the local area before or how to get better yields from current crops. Also established an Ag Demonstration Farm to show farmers how to improve yield, reduce pest & disease problems, better use irrigation water techniques going from flood irrigation to drip or furrow, introducing row crop agriculture with animal drawn and mechanized equipment. Women's Poultry project for meat and egg production was a big success as was bringing in over 1,000 bee hives for pollination of crops and as a side line honey production. All these projects done with the Afghan Provincial Agricultural Director and his staff to bring local governance back where none has existed for nearly 40 years.

Results and Accomplishments icon
USDA is part of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT's) in Afghanistan. Teams leadership is made up of the DoS Director, DoD commander, USAID Representative & USDA Agricultural Advisor . Together they set the direction with the Afghan government to do reconstruction and development in each province. There are 12 US led PRT's in Afghanistan. I was blessed to work in the safest province, Panjshir, which allowed smooth advancements with agricultural projects. One of my main goals was to double the wheat yields before I left. During my first year deployment it became apparent that wheat stocks being used where so old that they had lost their yield potential and pest and disease resistance. I was able to work with the French Embassy to bring in improved varieties of wheat for better yield, pest & disease resistance along with introducing row crop agriculture with proper fertilization and water management techniques to accomplish doubling wheat yields in the province. This really hit home when our PRT met with a local village and held a shura (afghan meeting) that one particular farmer told me that he produced enough wheat flour to last his family about five months of the year. He then would have to barter to get what his family needed for the rest of the year. Afghan's make naan bread - an unleavened flat bread that is a staple of their diet with almost every meal. This farmer is now able to produce enough wheat to last his family the entire year on the same amount of land. For subsistence agricultural farmers this is a huge improvement to their lives. This was one of the most rewarding projects accomplished for me - making a real positive difference to local farmers lives. Other projects will take longer to come to full fruition - orchards, hybrid poplar plantations for fuelwood production and market linkages from potato cool storage facilities. I feel very good leaving Afghanistan knowing I had a part in making agriculture better in assisting local provincial government leaders to meet the agriculture needs of the Panjshir Valley. A very rewarding two year deployment!

Contact icon
Greg Schlenz, USDA - NRCS, (509)382-4773

NRCS, Spring 2010