Ag initiatives in Afghanistan help locals lower dependency on Taliban influences.
Did you know that the Taliban uses food as a weapon in the ongoing war in Afghanistan?
That was one observation made by Scott Rottinghaus, an advisor with the Iowa National Guard 734th Agri-Business Development Team (ADT).
"In my experience, a lot of the local Afghans liked Americans, but they couldn’t feed themselves," he says. "So, they either had to work for the Taliban to earn money to buy food for themselves, or grow poppies to sell to them [to terrorists]."
The ADT was on the front lines to put an end to that situation. The group’s goal is to share U.S. agriculture practices with Afghan farmers so they can become more self-sufficient and less beholden to the Taliban, Rottinghaus says.
Rottinghaus was a prime candidate for the role, having grown up on a multigenerational farm near Independence, Iowa. He and fellow Iowa National Guard combatant Elliott Henderson, a Ranger Qualified Infantry Officer with the 133rd Iowa Army National Guard (who is also an Iowa farmer), spoke to a group of more than 200 Farm Journal Corn College attendees this week in Heyworth, Ill.
Henderson and Rottinghaus spent time in the more remote parts of eastern Afghanistan. Henderson says the extremely isolated location had so little outside exposure, it created some interesting communications challenges.
"This area had never heard of America," Henderson says. "When we showed up there, they thought we were Russians. They didn’t know that war had ended 20 years ago."
Rottinghaus and his ADT unit had several projects aimed at improving Afghanistan agriculture. The primary focus was setting up demonstration farms to showcase better management practices.
"They’re like farmers anywhere else," Rottinghaus says. "You’ve got the stubborn ones where that’s the way grandpa did it, that’s the way dad did it, and that’s the way I’m going to do it, and I’m not changing my mind. And then you have the more progressive ones that want to learn how to do it better."
Rottinghaus says he sees big potential in Afghanistan’s agricultural future. In this video, he explains the diversity of crops that can be grown in the country:
For those interested in learning more, Rottinghaus and Henderson both recommend the documentary Restrepo, the events of which occurred one mountain range over from where they were stationed.
For a more in-depth look at the Rottinghaus family and the ADT, Farm Journal intern Lauren Riensche wrote about the topic for the World Food Prize in 2010.
Thank you to the 2012 Corn College sponsors:
AgLeader, AgriGold, Agrotain, BASF, Chevrolet, ESN/Agrium, Great Plains, NCGA, Novazymes, Precision Planting, SFP, Schaffert, Top Third Marketing, WolfTrax