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Georgia soldiers teach seed germination to Afghans

POSTED: October 3, 2011 5:56 p.m.
Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Brian P. Glass/Task Force Patriot Public Affairs/

U.S. Army Sgt. Carmen Benson, a horticulture specialist for Georgia Agribusiness Development Team, examines a bag of seeds before handing them out to local farmers during a seed germination class at the Director of Agriculture Irrigation and Livestock (DAIL) compound in Afghanistan’s Maiden Shahr district. Sgt. Benson is also an agriculture teacher at South Effingham Middle School.

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WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan—The Georgia Agribusiness Development Team continued working toward building the economy in Wardak province with a seed germination class at the Director of Agriculture Irrigation and Livestock compound in Maiden Shahr district Sept. 21.

The seed germination class at the DAIL is a result of local farmers expressing concerns about what seeds are good and bad for growing. U.S. Army Sgt. Nathaniel Smith, a non-commissioned officer in charge for GA ADT in Wardak province and Dunwoody native, helped put this event together to address those concerns.

“The Nerkh farmers association approached my predecessor about wheat seed qualities that they were having,” said Smith. “So I and (U.S. Army) Sergeant (Carmen) Benson, our horticulture specialist, put our heads together, and she came up with this training program.

“(We hope to) teach them how to find quality seed, so they can go out on the market, buy 10 seeds and test them to see what percentage they expect to yield from what they plant,” continued Smith.

Benson, an Augusta native, not only had the idea for the class but also taught the class. Benson, who teaches at South Effingham Middle School, fit right in to getting class material across to her students, even if her new students are adult Afghan farmers.

“There were some similarities (in teaching), but I really appreciated their professionalism; in that they were able to have discussions with me, and they seem very passionate about their jobs,” she said. “Not only were they learning from me, but I was learning from them as well.”

The instruction consisted of an hour of classroom learning during which Benson showed different types of seeds and what to look for when farming. After that, Benson took her students outside for two practical exercises.

“We did two very basic germination tests,” she said. “One just requires soil, some sort of pot and some sunlight. You plant 10 seeds or 100 seeds and see how many germinate, which means grow and sprout from the ground. The goal is to have eight out of 10 germinate, which means you have an 80-percent germination rate — which is very acceptable for Afghanistan.

“The other (test) was the same concept, except you use a wet paper towel and you place it in the sun for five-to-seven days and evaluate your outcomes after that,” continued Benson.

Lal Mohammad, a local farmer in Maiden Shahr, participated in the class. He was happy with what he learned.

“Today we got training from the Georgia ADT at the DAIL compound, and it was good training,” said Mohammad. “We received training on seed germination and seed quality, showing us how to pick good seed to grow in our land. (The training) was very needed for us here.”

Benson left knowing she gave the local farmers information that would be passed on to other farmers in hopes they produce better results in the long run. The interaction during the class gives her hope the farmers will spread the word. Even though she is a teacher, Benson learned something herself.

“I was very happy,” Benson said. “I like when they’re inquisitive, they don’t just take everything I say as right (and) they question me. They shared their experiences and ways of doing things — such as cleaning and drying their seeds — that I had never heard of before.”

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