News: Kunar ADT visits research farm and tree nursery in Asadabad
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The Illinois Army National Guard’s 1-14th Agribusiness Development Team conducted a mission to a research farm operated by the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture and a separate, nearby tree nursery Aug. 28.
The 1-14th ADT visited the farms to further their understanding of agricultural research being conducted within the province and to assess the facilities as potential training resources.
Asadabad Research Farm research manager Mirwis Khan greeted members of the 1-14th ADT was and led a tour of the three-acre facility while explaining the farm’s background and goals.
Khan said the farm has been in operation for approximately 40 years and has recently come under control of the Ministry of Agriculture. While the land was used for tea production in the past, Khan said the Ministry of Agriculture changed its focus to other crops because the soil was too alkaline to grow tea.
The farm is currently used to grow spinach, mung beans, okra, radishes, olives, eggplants, okra and several varieties of corn, grapes and rice.
Khan said researchers at the farm use crop trials to compile data on the most successful plant varieties. That data will then be pushed out to agriculture extension agents, who will use it to educate farmers throughout their districts.
“We do research on different varieties of rice, for example,” said Khan. “This lets us know what varieties are good for Kunar and which ones are bad. Then the farmers can take that information and know what varieties they should plant. We provide the information to the extension department and they give the information to the farmers.”
U.S. Army Spc. Alan McFalls, of Polo, Ill., and forestry expert with the 1-14th ADT, said he was impressed by the overall management of the farm.
“For its size, the farm had a pretty wide variety of crops,” said McFalls. “There were more varieties of vegetables here than a lot of the other places we visited.”
McFalls said, in addition to providing data about which crops to plant, specific practices used on the farm would make it an excellent training facility.
“The Ministry of Agriculture could use this farm as a facility to teach farmers good planting and harvesting practices,” said McFalls. “Farmers would be able to see the direct benefits of planting in rows, maintaining good irrigation canals, properly preparing planting beds and being proactive in solving pest issues.”
After completing their tour of the Asadabad Demonstration Farm, ADT soldiers traveled by foot to a nearby tree nursery.
The nursery, which has been in operation for approximately 20 years, has recently partnered with the United States Agency for International Development through a program called Incentives Driving Economic Alternatives –North, East and West. The program is intended to provide licit agricultural alternatives in areas of Afghanistan that are prone to poppy production.
The nursery functions as a research facility, experimenting with approximately a dozen varieties of fruit, nut and upland trees. It also acts as a mother-stock facility, providing seed and root stock to private nurseries throughout Kunar province.
Employees of the farm said the fruit and nut trees are sold for commercial use, while the upland species are typically used for small-scale reforestation and watershed management projects.
U.S. Army Capt. Robert Cosgriff, of Big Timber, Mont., and forestry expert with the 1-14th ADT, compared the nursery to a botanical garden, growing a large variety of tree types, but with a limited number of trees within each species.
“Compared to other nurseries we’ve visited, they definitely focus their production on quality and not quantity,” said Cosgriff.
While the nursery does not produce the quantity of trees needed for large-scale reforestation projects, Cosgriff said the ADT gained valuable knowledge about successful nursery management techniques within the province.
“Ideally, we will take advantage of the knowledge and experience here to train other nursery managers who will be geared more toward mass production,” said Cosgriff. “This type of knowledge is really what we’re looking for.”