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combatfarmer
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Posted: 7/30/2013 4:44:42 PM
[Last Edit: 7/30/2013 5:38:47 PM by combatfarmer]
Through my business, I worked in Afghanistan on agriculture projects designed to assist with stabilization efforts in the region. I want to share with you some of the lessons learned along with some photos. I hope these are beneficial to those of you looking into or already working on low tech, sustainable farming/gardening projects here in the states.

Here is an aerial view of the region where we worked.
http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3703/9403084254_a60e3c954b.jpg

We worked with the military stationed in the region.
http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2890/9400323399_30de9845c8.jpg

Most people think Afghanistan is a big sandbox, but soils in the valleys range from Loamy Sand to Clay Loam; good soils to grow most anything and similar to many places in the US.
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7294/9403084100_57988b9c62.jpg

Start seeds early and plant crops that are adapted for your area. We used open pollinated seeds since people in Afghanistan save their seeds and have had problems saving seeds from a good crop of hybrids not producing the next year. It is good to keep this in mind and know the difference.
http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5485/9403084022_d2c40deca4.jpg

Get the right tools for the job. Take into consideration what tools are available in the area.
http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3708/9400323167_f99292b9ec.jpg

Get your fertilizer. We used manure and stayed away from commercial fertilizers that could have alternative and destructive uses.
http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2894/9403083836_cb298dd63b.jpg

We strived to use 1880's technology - before the gas engine and electricity. This would allow locals to continue to use our methods even after we left. This is also useful knowledge in the event that power went out in the US for a period of time. Low tech = sustainable.
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7359/9403083716_22eb213786.jpg

In Afghanistan many people lost their knowledge of farming due to 30-years of war. Many cannot read or write so in the past they learned from their elders passing on knowledge. This chain of information was deeply impacted by war...loss of life, being displaced from their homes and/or living in refugee camps has all but wiped out the current population's knowledge of farming. Similarly, here in the US we see a disconnect between the consumer and the producer, how many people still have a connection to farming or even know someone that farms?

To begin re-teaching the basics of farming we put the word out for villagers to come to a field day.
http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5327/9403083648_67befcf968.jpg

We had a good farmer turnout for our field day where we demonstrated each step of starting a garden or small-scale farm. Here we are putting fertilizer in a small bed then mixing it in with the soil.
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7342/9400322783_baf201e344.jpg
http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5339/9403083436_5858177924.jpg

Some of our projects got quite large and involved a lot of people. It was good to to see the community coming together. There is a real benefit to pooling resources and knowing who you can count on, what their abilities are and also identifying your own skill set.
http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2892/9403083366_6211088ab2.jpg

Bed preparation: In a dry climate, you make planting beds with a dike around them to hold water in, whereas in a wet/tropical climate you plant on a raised bed so water runs off. In a temperate climate, such a Iowa, you plant on the flat.
http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5325/9403083312_8b2fd1d3d8.jpg

Some beds were watered before planting.
http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5342/9400322433_055c6d2e04.jpg

We held planting demos throughout the project.
http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3709/9403082400_f4766c26b4.jpg

Our demonstration farms varied from ¼ acre to 3 acres in size. Planted were the main crops locals were accustomed to in AF.
http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5521/9400322363_7d426d4bd5.jpg

We left enough room for the creeper to get out.
http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5518/9403082310_31bef31cc5.jpg

Weeds were not much of an issue in the dry areas so we did not have a need for pesticides. This was a good thing since most of the pesticides came from Pakistan and you couldn’t be sure what was actually in the bottle – besides since many farmers could not read it would’ve been hard for them to maintain a regimen using pesticides.
http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2831/9400322263_856bd478e3.jpg

One thing we tried but did not work well was this stair garden, which dried out much too fast in this desert climate. This set up would work much better in a wet climate.
http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3819/9403082970_a6fa736e68.jpg

Working in the desert climate it was extremely important to water only what needed to be watered, never waste water. Over watering could also be problematic because you want the plant roots to go down in search of natural water sources. We got lots of buy-in from the villages; many kids would come and play - a good sign in AF. If kids were out it meant that you could expect to have a good day free from violence.
http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2831/9403082870_8eed07f84b.jpg

Harvest: We were able to increase yields more than 300% utilizing only the tools and technology available to the local population at each project location. Was it sustainable? Yes. We ensured sustainability through teaching and leaving behind the “know-how” to repeat the process.
http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5544/9403082214_5cba1e5010.jpg

If you are unsure of the crop you’re planting, start small. A 4x4 foot area is enough to see success but not too much to lose if it doesn’t work out. You always learn from mistakes.
http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5453/9400321995_7614033b51.jpg

The average size farm in Afghanistan is 1 to 3 acres and sustains a family of eight. Each farm is fenced or walled to maintain security.
http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5537/9403082658_4f628be559.jpg

Security for your property is very important to keep in mind when planning your garden/farm layout. Livestock and wild animals can wreak havoc on crops. Additionally, other people can also become a threat under the right conditions. For example, what if you had food and you neighbor had none?
http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2839/9403082576_f39808c8a9.jpg

All in all my experience in Afghanistan was very positive. There were some close calls…
http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2813/9400321737_5b0b5b5873.jpg

but, I also got to meet a lot of interesting people.
http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2891/9403082100_f99f98b5c3.jpg

We accomplished our mission and, through our work, reduced conflict, which saved lives!
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7374/9400323577_e92500e303.jpg


I hope you found this informative and if you have any questions, let me know. -- Combat Farmer
sparkyD
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Posted: 7/30/2013 5:00:54 PM
Pic's did not load but that was a very interesting read. I feel for those people they really bust their asses off with very little Promise that thing will work out. Hats off to you for helping pass knowledge along.
Chicken Farmer by choice hunter of shade tree's and hiding spots by nature.
highstepper
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Posted: 7/30/2013 5:39:26 PM
[Last Edit: 7/30/2013 5:47:13 PM by highstepper]
Nice work!

beardog30
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Posted: 7/30/2013 5:43:56 PM
I still maintain someone needs to make that place a big game preserve. Private game managers don't fuck around and if they can keep a bunch of motivated boozed up rednecks out of their land then the Taliban shouldn't be a problem
InfiniteGrim
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Posted: 7/30/2013 5:47:59 PM
Excellent first post!
combatfarmer
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Posted: 7/30/2013 5:48:32 PM
Thanks for checking out my post so quickly. I fixed the problem with the images so you can now get the whole picture.
watercat
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Posted: 7/30/2013 7:28:36 PM
Really neat pictures! Thank you for posting this!
pedaler
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Posted: 7/30/2013 8:49:53 PM
Awesome. Thanks for sharing.
rsqhobbs
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Posted: 7/30/2013 9:50:35 PM
[Last Edit: 7/30/2013 9:58:51 PM by rsqhobbs]
That's one heck of a first post!

Thank you for sharing your experiences.
I'm curious, what kinds of crops (besides poppies, lol) are the most popular and "doable" where you were?

Thanks for posting, and welcome to the site!
biglou250
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Posted: 7/30/2013 9:57:29 PM
Very interesting. Thanks OP.
JPL
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Posted: 7/30/2013 10:22:06 PM
Possibly the coolest post I've ever read on Arf!

Thanks for taking the time to share all that.
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GENESMITH
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Posted: 7/30/2013 10:23:09 PM
Well, I'm impressed!!!

You are doing good things over there.

Excellent first post, probably the best I've seen since I've been here.
Originally Posted By swingset:
I feel like printing this thread out on some quality paper, so I can go wipe my ass with it.
marinesg1012
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Posted: 7/30/2013 10:43:34 PM
Awesome first post,
rktman26
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Posted: 7/30/2013 11:36:57 PM
Awesome post. Thanks for sharing.
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Posted: 7/30/2013 11:39:32 PM
... great post!
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IchWarrior
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Posted: 7/31/2013 8:27:15 AM
Pretty cool stuff
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Mike_314
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Posted: 7/31/2013 8:52:00 AM
I don't grow anything but I read every word of your post.
That was really interesting and thanks for going over there to help.
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ChickenDaddy
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Posted: 7/31/2013 11:59:41 AM
Very good read!

It looks like there is a lot more pre-planting work making the little walls, dams etched. But then less work later on with weeding.

I'm also curious about the types of crops (beyond poppies) that work for these folk.


combatfarmer
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Posted: 7/31/2013 12:40:44 PM
rsqhobbs and Chicken Daddy - We were in southern AF and found that grapes, pomegranates, corn, wheat, and a variety of beans all grew well. Also, we had good yields with all kinds of vegetables.
coug91
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:31:22 PM
OP - Thanks for sharing. That's pretty cool. I knew there was an NG unit from SC that went over to work on a similar project.
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boerseun
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Posted: 7/31/2013 9:59:57 PM
That is absolutely awesome! Talk about a positive influence on the locals! Congratulations on a job well done...
Would you mind if I shared this story and pictures (as motivation) with some friends in S. Africa? We have a problem there with locals being "awarded" farms and then having absolutely no clue what to do with the land. This has been going on for almost 20 years now and the stupid govt. there just can't figure out how to get these people to farm properly - buy them tractors - they sell the tractors the next day. Give them seed and the mice get to it. Give them cattle - they trade it for women (wives) or booze. I kid you not. Just maybe, a story like this could motivate the right people to get involved and train some folks to do things the right way around.
66Stang
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Posted: 7/31/2013 11:06:17 PM
Very informative thanks for posting.
Wight_Hat
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Posted: 8/1/2013 10:16:16 AM
Thanks for sharing your experiences. That was a really interesting first post.

Mind if I ask what your background is?
combatfarmer
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Posted: 8/1/2013 8:01:42 PM
Boerseun - It would be fine with me if you forward this complete post. Hopefully it will be of use and you'll start to see positive changes.
RDS_FSU
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Posted: 8/1/2013 8:34:43 PM
Very Cool!
Its good to see stuff like this going on. I don't watch the news anymore because its always full of negative stuff. So reading this was really informative and shows that there are good things happening over there.

Hopefully it works out for them and they use the knowledge.

Thank You for sharing!
RDS_FSU
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Posted: 8/1/2013 8:54:33 PM
fantastic post.
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