Friday, August 17, 2007

Army Sgt Major gets help for Afghan Farmers

Email to Spirit of America from an Army Sergeant Major:

We would like your help providing basic subsistence items to destitute Afghan farmers and their children. Most rural Afghans are farmers, and live without amenities such as electricity, clean water, or decent schools. The decades of war here have produced a high rate of illiteracy and desperation. We would like to provide some relief with your assistance.

The people in our areas need basic farming implements such as shovels, hoes, picks, and rakes. Both adults and children need clothing, especially shoes, socks, and gloves. The schools here lack basic supplies, like pencils, paper, chalk, and blank notebooks. The schools also have no sports equipment, so they could use basic recreational items such as soccer balls and Frisbee-s. The youngest children covet any type of stuffed animals, so that would be appropriate also.

We have been fighting the Taliban [in several areas] lately, but this type assistance requested would help anywhere we go in Afghanistan next. The Taliban's biggest ally is that the local people are destitute, and hungry for any good deed. We could use some good deeds on our side, with your help. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Spirit of America responded to the Sergeant Major and is getting supplies to the Afghan farmers. So far, they have sent 300 school kits, soccer balls, beanies and jump ropes. A shipment of farm tools, seeds and saffron bulbs is on its way.

The Sergeant Major's response:

Your choice of seed variety [being sent in response to this project] sounds right on, thank you. The farmers will use them in their gardens for sustenance, but they raise something else to earn cash.

The amount of heroin that is produced from this country (about 90% of total world's production)is unbelievable. Poppy fields stretch for miles. The Taliban use poppy grown in Afghanistan to generate funding for their activities.

Although the poppy grown by these farmers doesn't give them very much money, it brings in more money than anything else, so it is the biggest cash crop they produce. I asked farmers what they would raise as a cash crop if they didn't grow poppy. They all said saffron. Saffron has been considered a good substitute by many agricultural experts in Afghanistan also, and it would take money out of the hands of drug dealers who work with the Taliban.

This region is where saffron originally came from, before cultivation spread to Europe. Right now Afghanistan's neighbor in the west, Iran, grows the largest quantites of saffron, that it exports globally as the world's most expensive spice by weight. The limited quantities of saffron grown here in Afghanistan so far also generate the only revenue close to poppy in monetary value. Where one kilo of poppy will earn an Afghan farmer about $750, one kilo of saffron brings about $400, which is not bad. One kilo of wheat here barely brings in $4.00, which makes living off staple crops difficult. I think that if it were more available, saffron would be grown here in greater quantities, taking cash away from the Taliban.

Spirit of America does great work helping our warriors help the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and where ever they are working. Thank you!

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