MARJAH, Afghanistan - As much as 85 percent of Afghanistan’s economic activity is made up of agricultural enterprises in the Helmand and Nimroz provinces. This impressive economic stature makes these areas attractive opportunities for coalition forces to develop and promote independent agricultural growth.
With the help of the local government and co-operative members, mostly farmers, coalition forces have begun the planning needed to develop better agricultural processes. It began in Marjah, with a groundbreaking ceremony for a packing facility, May 29.
Marjah is an ideal place to begin sustainable agricultural projects, the primary reason being its extensive irrigation system, fed by the Boghra Canal. Equal dispersion of water resources allows for double cropping, or the harvesting of winter and summer crops on the same land.
“The process we have in this area is too old,” said Abdul Mutalib, the district governor of Marjah. “We need a modern approach, and the international community is helping us with this.”
This modern approach includes using the available water resources, as well as relying on the resiliency and will of the local population to thrive.
“The people requested this building to make a better market… it will definitely help the community,” Mutalib added.
The Afghan people have relied on agriculture for hundreds of years to support their families and their country, but it has not been easy.
“Farmers are hampered by adversities,” said Capt. Mike McDowell, the civil affairs team leader with Regimental Combat Team 1. “There is a lack of road systems and there is no distribution system.”
The packing facility will allow farmers to expand and manage their own business.
“This building represents a chance for local farmers to control their business, creates jobs, and gives them an opportunity to sell their own fruits and vegetables at a good price,” said McDowell, a LaGrande, Ore., native.
The building process also includes a plan to develop more roads in order to expedite the distribution process. Without the roads, the farmers will remain unable to sell all of the produce they harvest because they cannot get it out of the local community.
“Now, all the crops are harvested and sold at the same time,” McDowell stated.
The excess supply versus the demand means the leftover produce rots, he said.
With a packing facility in the community, the farmers will be able to sanitize and wash, crate and pack, and ship the produce to farther reaches of the country.
“Farmers can, and will, produce more knowing they have a market beyond the locals,” said Maggie Rhodes, a United States Department of Agriculture representative. “This increased capacity for long-term agricultural growth and production will equal long-term stability.”
It is the eventual wish of the project’s investors and participants to be able to sell Afghan produce in the international market.
More buildings and plants are scheduled to be built in the near future.
“The success is the result of the contributions of the Afghan leaders sitting here today,” said Maj. Gen. John A. Toolan, commanding general of Regional Command Southwest. “If it wasn’t for [their] courage and hard work, things like today wouldn’t be happening in Marjah.”
This work, Groundbreaking ceremony instills hope for growth in Marjah, by Cpl Katherine Solano, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.