By Army National Guard Spc. Leslie Goble
Combined Joint Task Force 1 - Afghanistan
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (2/8/12) - The citizens of Alingar may not know exactly what Arbor Day is, but they have much to look forward to as they plant the trees they recently received.
The Kansas Agribusiness Development Team, which operates in Laghman Province, coordinated with Ismail Dawlatzai, the director of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock, the Alingar Agriculture Extension Center, and a local nursery, to purchase around 2,400 saplings for the people of Alingar District.
The trees given to the elders of the village varied from pomegranate, almond, and persimmon, and have the potential to bring independence to the villagers who must travel great distances on foot in order to receive the same fruits and nuts from market vendors.
"We will make a small garden for our family and neighborhood, and with these trees we won't have to travel as far to get fruit to feed our children," said one grateful elder.
Though the trees will take several years to mature and produce fruit, the villagers and Guard members remain hopeful.
"Our hope is that everyone is able to take a few trees back to their village and start a nursery for their families and neighbors," said Army 1st. Lt. Andrew Webster, the project manager for the Kansas ADT.
Distribution of the trees took place at the Alingar extension center where the DAIL had a shura with the elders of Alingar District.
"I want to thank the members of the Kansas ADT for all they have done here," Dawlatzai said to the elders in the shura. "All the projects they have completed have been for the people of Laghman to use."
All of the village elders, who received trees, attended classes to make sure they understood how to plant and maintain them once they returned to their villages, and each elder was given roughly 15 trees to plant throughout their village.
The Kansas ADT is also planning the same tree distribution event for the district of Alisheng, where they will buy roughly the same amount of trees, but they will give them to about 45 schools in the district - each will receive about 50 trees.
The effect of the tree distribution was visible immediately on the faces of the happy villagers. In the near future, the trees will be mature and the fruit and nuts will be harvested. It is a future which the village elders are excited about - one in which they will be able to provide for their families with pride.