Magazine article National Defense

National Guard Sends Agriculture Teams to Afghanistan

Magazine article National Defense

National Guard Sends Agriculture Teams to Afghanistan

Article excerpt

National Guard units from agricultural states are sending in small teams of specialists to help Afghan farmers improve the way they cultivate crops.

"We have isolated the challenge and attacked it with human resources," said Col. Martin Leppert, special assistant to the director of the Army National Guard for agri-business development teams.

Afghanistan's rural population is about 80 percent farmers, yet "their needs are not being met the same as in urban areas," he said at the Association of the U.S. Army conference.

Guard members with agriculture and civil engineering degrees, or with practical skills such as welding and animal husbandry are setting up demonstration farms, and helping Afghans go from subsistence farming to where they can earn extra money for their crops.

It's all about providing jobs to 18- to 45-year-old men, Leppert said. "Those are the guys who could go either way. They could be our friend. They could be our foe."

The teams are avoiding provinces where they would compete head to head with farmers who are growing illegal crops such as poppies. "We're interested in getting after the fence-sitting farmers. …

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