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UK troops provide vital crop lifeline to Afghan farmers

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Source: Government of the United Kingdom
Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Soldiers from the 1st Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment, known as the ‘Vikings’, have been helping Afghan farmers extend their irrigation systems which it is hoped will save vital crops needed to sustain hundreds of villagers.

Major Dom Biddick, Officer Commanding A Company, held a meeting with elders from the local villagers around Jusyalay, the area between Sangin and Putay in Helmand province, in order to find out what they needed to help bring reconstruction and development in the area.

This followed a difficult and dangerous operation that took place recently, Operation Ghartse Gar, which saw the 1st Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment clear Taliban elements from the Jusyalay area thereby enabling the essential task of digging irrigation ditches to take place.

After listening to the elders’ concerns, Major Biddick arranged for a digger belonging to the Royal Engineers to be brought to the village. it was then used to dig irrigation ditches which helped to save the farmers’ crops:

“This is a pretty significant step forward that cannot be underestimated,” said Maj Biddick. “Compare to last year, it is good to see the local traffic increasing and families returning home from the surrounding hills. It is very warming to see gratitude on people’s faces.”

Warrant Officer 2 Kevin Main said:

“Any opportunity to improve the living conditions of the locals has to be exploited. Whether this is improving irrigation or providing emergency medical care. At Battalion level lots can be fixed at short notice that would otherwise be lost in politics or put on hold.”

Despite the ever-present threat of attack as well as the challenges of the heat and the language barrier, the Royal Anglian soldiers worked with the Royal Engineers and locals to extend the irrigation system from the Helmand River to the farmers’ fields. Lieutenant Bjorn Rose said:

“It was good to see the locals about because we could see the result of all the things we have been doing here in Afghanistan. The locals had not seen a soldier since the Soviet occupation.”

Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart Carver, Commanding Officer of the 1 Royal Anglian Battlegroup added:

“This last operation, whilst it saw fiercer fighting in the initial stages has also allowed us to demonstrate a less kinetic approach. Face to face engagement with the local population, listening to their problems and assisting with local projects which benefit the community are the real route to success here in Helmand and gaining the support of the population.

“This rare ability to switch rapidly from combat in its most intense form to a low key reassurance profile and be equally good at both is why I believe the British Infantry are held in such esteem.”

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Written by afghandevnews

July 25, 2007 at 4:51 am

Posted in Agriculture

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