About fifty members of the Missouri National Guard head for Afghanistan late this year…and early next year…But they won’t be taking helicopters and Humvees with them. Instead, they’ll take along a design for a horse-drawn plow.
The members of the Missouri Army and Air National Guard with farming backgrounds will work in Nangarhar province with local farmers. Captain Doug Dunlap, who grew up on a farm near Poplar Bluff and whose family was in the farm implement business for decades, is organizing the unit. He says the idea originated from soldiers in the province who recognized the need to have people with agriculture experience on the Provincial Recovery Team.
But farming there is basic. An acre to an acre-and-a-half is the usual size. Four or five acres is a big farm. He says the goal is to move the farmers in Nangarhar province from 13th or 14th century agriculture to the 19th century. He says the farmers there are challenged by access to new technical advice, quality seed, fertilizer, and access to markets. He says they don’t need 200-horsepower tractors–but they have asked for the designs of a horse-drawn steel plow.
Dunlap says 85 percent of the economy in Nangarhar Province is based on agriculture. But they need cool storage for their fruits and vegetables and there’s no reliable electricity source. Instead, the Missourians will look at developing root cellars or using caves.
Dunlap thinks the Missourians will be there for about a year and the program will continue with others after their tour is ended.