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NRCS Around the World: Overcoming Obstacles in Afghanistan

This is part 3 of a three-part series. You can read Part 1 here, and part 2 here.

My first order with the windmill pump manufacturing company was for four windmills. The first windmill would be constructed at Kandahar Airfield as a demonstration project for military commanders and Afghan officials. The other three would go to Uruzgan province with a subsequent order intended for Zabul province.

Unfortunately, the complicated communication process, coupled with the challenges of shipping from Pakistan to Afghanistan during a war, resulted in time running out on my coordination of this project. A windmill pump tower at Kandahar Airfield was constructed but not yet erected when my six-month tour of duty ended and I had to return home to the United States.

The windmill did become operational, however. Within three weeks of my return to the United States, the windmill was pumping water to a storage tank and being utilized for multiple uses for the contractors’ compound and the K-9 compound adjacent to it.

The Texan eventually made a trip to Pakistan to meet with the windmill pump company’s representatives and purchase a license to manufacture the windmills in Afghanistan. He trained an Afghan and Uzbek team to construct the windmills, and I stayed in periodic contact with Sandy back in the UK.

In June of 2007 Sandy e-mailed me that, at last count, there were 43 windmills up and running in southern Afghanistan. Persistence had paid off!

Although I had no successor from my agency, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, to continue this project, the Texan carried it forward. In fact, he has gone even further and developed a training course for Afghan crews. These crews come to an Afghan contractor compound adjacent to Kandahar Airfield for a several-day training program where they learn to assemble, disassemble, erect and conduct maintenance of the windmills.

What started as an overwhelming challenge resulted in a gratifying accomplishment. The hardest part of coming home was trying to match the level of job satisfaction I had in Afghanistan. Helping farmers help the land in America is a very honorable profession. But helping people feed their families and improve their lives on a very basic level in a developing country will forever remain the highlight of my career—and likely my life.

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What may be the first windmill pump to be constructed on Afghan soil. This one was constructed on a contractor’s compound at Kandahar Airfield (KAF) in July 2005.

What may be the first windmill pump to be constructed on Afghan soil. This one was constructed on a contractor’s compound at Kandahar Airfield (KAF) in July 2005.

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