Nebraska Community Lends Helping Hand to Afghan Farmers
By Army 1st Lt. Lory Stevens
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, July 17, 2009 Members of the Nebraska National Guard's Task Force Warrior agribusiness development team visited several villages in Afghanistan’s Kapisa province July 13 to assess grain bins that once occupied farmlands in Imperial, Neb.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Eldon Kuntzelman, center, meets with local farmers in Afghanistan’s Kapisa province, July 13, 2009, to discuss issues concerning grain-bin assembly and grape vineyards. U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Lory Stevens
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Development team members relocated and reconstructed the bins to help Afghan farmers with grain-storage issues.
“These completed grain bins are the first in Afghanistan, and serve as an excellent way for farmers to store their grain,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Eldon Kuntzelman, a team agronomist.
Kuntzelman first thought of the idea to ship grain bins to Afghanistan in June 2008, during predeployment preparations.
“It was reported to the [agribusiness team] that grain storage was an issue in Afghanistan,” he said.
Kuntzelman worked last summer alongside team members and community volunteers to disassemble eight local grain bins donated by Kip Bremer, Kurt Bernhardt and Wayne Bahler, all farmers from Imperial. Another farmer, Gregg Smith, also offered some of his grain bins.
Business owner Bob Mendenhall volunteered his time, a boom truck and air tools to assist with the disassembly, loading and transporting of the bins from Imperial to Lincoln, Neb., a 300-mile trip. The bins later were transported to Camp Atterbury, Ind., then shipped to Afghanistan.
“It took about a week to take down the eight bins,” Kuntzelman recalled. He thanked farmer Richard Banks for donating his time alongside team members to disassemble and load the bins.
“Once we hit the ground here in October 2008, we started assessing the area for places to put the bins up,” said Kuntzelman, who assists local farmers in Kapisa, Parwan, Panjshir and Bamyan provinces.
During the July 13 mission, the team assessed three completed grain bins in Kapisa province.
“Shir Padasha Village constructed the grain bin exactly as we trained them,” said Kuntzelman, who walked on foot to the village due to heavy tree cover and narrow streets for travel.
At the second location, a short distance away, where a smaller bin was constructed, farmers said they were happy to have a place to store their grain. They offered team members apricots and plums to eat.
A larger bin was constructed at a third location where a well is being drilled and grape vineyard owners are dealing with a fungus problem.
In addition to the three completed grain bins in Kapisa, one grain bin has been delivered to Parwan, and plans are in the works to deliver the remaining four bins to Panjshir.
“All the foundation pads are poured at the various locations for the grain bins to be assembled, and we expect all eight bins to be completed by the end of the month,” Kuntzelman said.
(Army 1st Lt. Lory Stevens serves in the Task Force Warrior public affairs office.)