CAMP DWYER, Helmand Province, Afghanistan --
More than 200 farmers throughout southern Helmand province graduated, Aug. 14, from a five-week farming cooperative course headed by Green Afghanistan Agriculture and Livestock Organization.
Jon D. Kauffeld, the United States Department of Agricultural adviser in southern Helmand, said approximately 10,000 farmers from 98 local co-ops will indirectly benefit from the course.
The GAALO instructors, all Afghans educated at Kandahar University, instructed the local farmers on conflict resolution, function of a board of directors, and other topics which help maintain an effective co-op. Other modules of the course were horticulture, livestock management, and business management.
“Every co-op walks out of the training with a business plan for their cooperative,” said Kauffeld, from Bozeman, Mont.
Hopefully, the co-op training will be a paradigm shift for the southern Helmand agricultural community, which is currently applying few modern farming methods and business practices, he said. He explained that the co-op initiative is part of a “bottom-up” approach to improving the regional infrastructure.
Kauffeld used the example of Pakistani merchants, who he said often purchase produce in Afghanistan, process it in Pakistan, and return to Afghanistan to sell it for profit.
“Often times, the most money is made by the people who actually process the vegetables and fruits into valuable commodities,” Kauffeld said.
The co-op training is part of an ongoing agricultural program in Garmsir, Marjah and Nawa districts. Past agricultural initiatives have included seed distribution and tree planting.
Kauffeld said coalition forces help fund local co-ops through the Commander’s Emergency Relief Program and the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team.