Collecting a basket of skills along with their eggs, 60 students graduated from the Women and Youth Poultry Training Course at the Mirzaka Khalilan School in Paktya province, April 29.
The 1-45th Oklahoma Agribusiness Development Team organized, supplied and funded the training, which provided impoverished women, youths and disabled children the knowledge and equipment needed to create and maintain a sustainable poultry operation.
The local school provided the class space, while Mirzaka sub governor, Said Mohammed, local elders and the Afghan National Police provided security for the project, said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Cynthia Tinkham, 1-45th executive officer, from Oklahoma City.
"Based on the participation of the local elders and sub-governor, and the enthusiasm of the participants, it is apparent that this training was a resounding success," said U.S. Army Col. Amos Chase, commander of the 1-45th, from Chandler, Okla.
More than thirty males and thirty females aged 8 to14 attended separate classes, in which they were provided chickens, coops, feeders and feed. The students were also given comprehensive instruction on the care of their chickens, said Tinkham.
The feedback from the students was positive, and they were anxious to get more schooling in animal husbandry, said Tinkham. The students were proud of their chicks and said they were still in good health, proof the students effectively used their newly-learned skills, added Tinkham.
Chase also expressed hope the project will continue to have success over the coming months.
"We will continue to monitor this project in the future to determine the long range effectiveness of this project. If it meets its stated objective, it will provide a sustainable source of nutrition and income through the production and sale of excess eggs and fowl," he said.
Tinkham and U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Altebaumer, from Stilwater, Okla., participated in the graduation ceremony by handing out certificates of completion and a poultry health guide to the female students.
Prior to the graduation ceremony, members of the 1-45th held a shura that included Mohamed and local elders from the Mangal tribes. During this shura, Mohamed stated the district was committed to supporting the Government of Afghanistan and would not allow the Taliban or insurgents to stifle progress, said Tinkham.
Because of the local leaderships' commitment, the citizens of Mirzaka district who needed the training most were able to participate, said Chase.
"The competent administration of the tribal and district level leadership placed this project within the intended population so as to achieve its maximum benefit," said Chase.
The District of Mirzaka has around 35,000 residents and the region is 85 percent mountainous, making produce farming challenging. The district is lacking trees and recent floods decimated farmland, so poultry production will play an important role in building a sustainable economy in the coming years, said Tinkham.