US military boosts efforts to help Afghan farmers

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The American military is expanding its efforts to rebuild Afghanistan’s agriculture after decades of war left the nation’s farm-based economy in ruins.

Once a major exporter of dried fruits, nuts and exotic crops such as pomegranates, Afghanistan is now known mainly for growing poppies for the opium trade.

Col. Martin Leppert says many Afghan farmers were killed or fled the country during the past three turbulent decades. He’s overseeing the Army National Guard’s Afghan agribusiness effort that’s enlisted units from 12 states.

The military began sending agribusiness units to Afghanistan in early 2008. They now work in 14 of the nation’s 34 provinces on project to improve irrigation and bring new ideas to farmers who eke out a living much as American farmers did 150 years ago.