Georgia Guardsman Command Sgt. Major Randall Parker is looking forward to helping make children smile in a war-ravaged country that also has long been wracked by opium use and trafficking.
In May, the 53-year-old Richmond Hill resident and Savannah native will join 57 other members of the Georgia National Guard’s new Agribusiness Development Team on a mission to southeastern Afghanistan. There, the team plans to share with Afghan farmers an array of agricultural methods it learned about last month at the University of Georgia.
“We’re going there to help them sustain themselves, and show them how to grow crops other than poppy seeds,” Parker said Monday. “I’m ecstatic about going and making a difference.”
Eighty-five percent of Afghanistan citizens are farmers, and Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, according to the CIA’s World Factbook and a February 2011 article in National Geographic. Opium comes from poppies and is used to make heroin, and money from opium trafficking, the article states, supports the Taliban.
Parker, who is based at Fort Gordon in Augusta, said Afghan farmers will benefit from being taught about cold storage, which Americans used in the 1800s to store food underground. Other lessons he will help share with the farmers will include those on irrigation methods, food supply and demand and treatments for sick livestock.
In addition, the Guardsmen plan to show Afghan women how to raise chicken and keep bees.
For more, pick up a copy of the March 15 edition of the News.