BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — While it may seem like one small step for the citizens of Panjshir, the Women's Poultry Project is one giant leap for the women who call the valley their home.
The project is designed to empower women in the valley by assisting them in providing food and income for families.
Mr. Greg Schlenz, the USDA Agricultural advisor to the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team, said the project began last spring in the district of Anaba with a couple hundred families and currently includes more than 1,200 Panjshir families in the districts of Anaba, Rhoka, Bazarak, Dara and Khenj.
The three-months of training involves four phases, in which the women learn how to raise, maintain, and profit from their chickens.
"The first phase is the initial training where the women learn how to properly care for the chickens," Schlenz said. "This includes feeding, watering, managing and how to vaccinate against diseases."
During the second phase the women receive materials to build their own chicken coops. In the third phase the women are given 13 hens and two roosters. The women receive follow up visits to ensure the chickens are being cared for properly. The fourth phase teaches the women how to market eggs laid by the chickens.
The PRT Womens' Affairs working group serves as the liaison between the women devoted to this project and the PRT Agricultural team. On Aug. 16, the group visited several project sites in the Chalapawi village in Dara district.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Danielle M. Sempter, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the Panjshir PRT medical unit, is an active member of the working group and was present at the site visit.
"This project is a huge success," Sempter said. "They were happy to see us and many said raising chickens has significantly improved the quality of their lives."
Sempter added that others have noticed the difference raising chickens has made and want to be a part of the project.
"Women who weren't involved came up and asked for training and chickens of their own," Sempter said.
Overall, most of the owners reported only consuming the eggs with only one claiming to selling half of the eggs and keeping the other half. None reported consuming the chickens, however only one had all 15 chickens.
According to Mr. Schlenz, the project has spread to other areas of Panjshir and to other provinces in Afghanistan. A similar program is being developed to teach Afghans in Panjshir's Paryan District to care for and benefit from sheep.