CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — In rural Afghanistan, many Afghans raise livestock and grow crops for survival and not profit. The death of a goat or loss of crops could lead to hungry children for a family.
In northern Helmand province, soldiers with the Georgia National Guard Agricultural Development Team III, Regimental Combat Team 7, are working with Afghan government agents to educate local farmers about livestock.
District levels of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan employ agricultural, irrigation and livestock agents. The veterinary team, headed by U.S. Army Maj. Eugene Johnson, a veterinarian with ADT III, travels to the districts to teach these government employees.
Once the Vet Team teaches the government official, the Afghan then teaches his own people. The Afghan agricultural agents use posters in Pashtu to teach basic veterinary lessons designed by the soldiers.
“We are giving them the knowledge to teach their people their way,” said Johnson, a native of Platte City, MO. “They keep asking for more because they want the knowledge.”
The vet team gives the initial class, but after that the Afghans have done a great job teaching the local farmers, said Spc. Cynthia Medina, a native of Canton, Ga., and a veterinarian technician with ADT III.
“He was asking questions to the farmers and being interactive,” Medina said about one of the Afghans teaching a class. “The class went very well.”
The team teaches classes on nutrition, disease and parasites. Johnson said the team focuses the classes based on issues given to them by the Afghans.
The animal experts also try to provide affordable solutions based around items readily available in Helmand.
“We always try to keep their country in mind,” Johnson said. “If we can teach them simple things to improve their livestock, we can make a big difference.”
Many of the Afghans have no formal education but are very willing to learn all they can because it affects their lives, Johnson said. They are also willing to show the soldiers how they usually do things, so Johnson and his team can show them ways to improve. Medina created a simulated calf, spending a week coloring in its spots and features to make it look real, so the Afghans could conduct practical application training. The team also uses a wooden, simulated cow pelvis to show the Afghans techniques for birthing.
The soldiers with ADT III, who have been here since January, think their hands-on approach has worked and would not have it any other way.
“We’ve made a lot of ground, and I believe we have made an impact,” Johnson said. “There’s no place I’d rather be than working with the guys on the ground.”