Afghanistan – It’s not all dust and desert.
By Cpl Mark Lewis Maintenance troop, C Sqn, Ldsh (RC).
22 May 2009
I have been asked to talk a little bit about some of our experiences here in Afghanistan so far. I would like to tell you a little bit about the landscape and environment around our Base. Many people, soldiers included, had assumed that most of Afghanistan was rock and desert. This may be true in certain areas, but many of us were surprised to find that the area around our base is very fertile, with a seasonally large river running through it.
Immediately as you leave the front gates of Ma’sum Ghar, you are greeted by a world of green. There are many grape fields and farms in our district. The lush green of the vines is a startling contrast to the arid desert we had expected. Beyond the grape fields are many poppy and wheat fields as well, all drawing their water from the Arghandahb River that runs through our district.
The farmers have been ingenious in coaxing growth from this soil, devising ways to irrigate their crops with dikes, irrigation canals and water pumps. The crops these people grow represent the majority of their annual income and as such are vital to their existence. This is evident in the long hours that they work, from sunup to sundown in tending their crops. We may not always agree with what they grow however! A large part of the economy is based on the growing of poppies for the opium trade. We also see large fields of Marijuana along the roads we travel. However, there are still a large number of traditional farmers that grow wheat, grapes, vegetable and fields of hay for livestock.
While we were training for our deployment, we tried to emulate some of the conditions we would encounter over here. Going to Ft. Bliss Texas allowed us to acclimate ourselves a little to the heat and dust of a desert while working in an environment similar to Afghanistan. I think we most of us first timers were pleasantly surprised by how green the area around our base really is. The mountains that surround are reminiscent of the Rockies and a lot like the mountain ranges in Dona Ana Texas. In some respects being thousands of miles from home yet seeing familiar landscape is somewhat comforting.
I am sure everyone will leave Afghanistan with a different impression than the one with which they came. Afghanistan can be a harsh and unforgiving place at times, but it can also be a place of surprising life and vitality. I look forward to seeing more of this fascinating country in the months to come.