The mission of the Georgia National Guard Agribusiness Development Teams has always been to help Afghans build a more secure society by improving food security. However over the teams’ past two deployments the methods for completing that mission have changed.
While the first two Georgia Agribusiness Development Teams focused on working directly with Afghan farmers, ADT III —which will deploy in January — will focus more on training extension specialists with the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock.
“Right now, we’re hearing that a lot of things have changed,” said Sgt. First Class Allen Cooper, from Resaca, Ga., who deployed with ADT I in 2011. “We’re actually not going to be so much hands on this time. We’re going to be mentoring and turning everything over to the Afghans. So I’m hoping to see that they’re taking charge and holding their own classes.”
Cooper’s team, which was training in Tifton last week, is the third group of Georgia National Guardsmen who has trained with University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences faculty for an Agribusiness Development Team mission.
“Small changes that you can make have a profound impact in what they do in that part of the world,” Dean J. Scott Angle of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences told the ADT training class last week. “It doesn’t take a lot of resources, it just takes a little bit of good information, and you are armed with that.”
ADT III is made up of 48 citizen soldiers from across the state, but they are deploying as part of the Augusta-based 201st Regional Support Group. ADT II, which trained last fall, is currently deployed to Afghanistan. ADT I returned home from their tour in Afghanistan this spring.
“There will have been four years of ADT teams (two from Nevada and two from Georgia) there by the time we show up, and I’m hoping to see that a lot of progress has been made,” Cooper said.
During the weeklong agricultural crash course, university faculty hit the high points of small-scale wheat, poultry, fruit, dairy and ruminant livestock production, but they also focused a lot on market building — an area where Afghan farmers need the most help.
The first Georgia ADT team that deployed to Afghanistan found that farmers there knew how to make their arid land produce. Afghanis were raising livestock, like goats and cows, but also wheat fields and some of the sweetest grapes and watermelons some of the guardsmen had ever tasted. That being said, their farming practices could be more productive, said Col. Barry Beach, commander of ADT III.
“It’s more of the marketing part, building the (marketing associations among farmers) and expanding on the subsistence farming they are doing now,” Beach said. “If they can market their crops, they can make more money, and if they can do that, they can take care of their families.”
Making sure Afghan’s have what they need to better care for their families is a humanitarian mission, but it's also a key part to the United State’s counter insurgency effort in the country, Beach said.