So today was so uneventful I’m almost disappointed. We did get a a lecture from Deputy General Manager Rick for attempting to walk from the hotel reception to the street (rather than wait behind the gates) to meet our driver. Without being silly he was right. Unecessary risks are foolish in Kabul and while it was at the request of our driver so he didn’t have to deal with the hassle of security, it’s obviously a necessary hassle for him even if it means a delay for us. Still I think Rick actually presses (irons) his set of seven grey wife beaters (singlets) and I do enjoy it when he “tells me where he’s coming from” since it always ends with an example of ”mas cal” and an apology for his unapologetic approach to security. Rick, if for some bizzare reason you happen to read this - which I highly doubt since it could subtract life saving minutes from a security briefing - I’m already giving you twenty.
So today was a really productive day at the workshop. We made some really encouraging connections with our counterpart Extension personnel. It was helped by a visit to the demonstration plots which seeded some really fruitful discussion. What has been unsurprising about Afghnaistan has been the chaotic and seat-of-the-pants approach to just about everything. While it does provide it’s bizarre and entertaining moments, I’m sure it’s borne of generations worth of conflict and the unavoidable and overriding instinct of simply getting from one end of the day to the other without losing something you care about i.e. your life.
Many of these people are highly educated, and able to problem solve and absorb new information at a very high level (much higher than me for what that’s worth). For the majority of the day Calvin and I were the ones getting educated as well as revising our presentations to incorporate material more relevant to their particular challenges. The epiphany we did have was that their problem is not that of a knowledge gap. Most of these people are smarter than me, work harder than me, have more farmers dependant on them, have more mouths to feed and get paid a lot less. Their problem is one of foundational experience. They’ve never had to design and implement technology or technique demonstrations/research nor even been exposed to it. They need mentorship from someone like Calvin to lead them through the process of designing appropriate experiments and managing them successfully to completion. It just sounds as if the funding and political will is simply not present right now to make that happen. Without it I suspect that this workshop will unfortunately risk lowering morale among these highly capable people. It may only succeed in highlighting resource defiiciencies rather than providing new tools.
One thing that I took encouragement from was success they were having building trust with ag the community and their ability to find multiple partners willing to try out new technology on-farm. Again without ongoing support these efforts may lose steam if the cost for this equipment doesn’t become affordable for a larger portion of the farming community and tech support doesn’t improve. This is problem solving of a scope well out of my league.
In spite of these bumps in the road, Calvin and I returned to the hotel feeling like we were building a positive rapport with our Afghani colleagues and really enjoying that aspect of it. Tomorrow we’ll be doing more field demonstrations and classroom work, and will be breaking the workshop up into teams for their visits with farmers and group project.
The food continues to be excellent, today at lunch we had a tandoori style chicken kabob with lemon that was just well… bomber (sorry Rick, I’m already giving you another twenty).