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Cablegate: Agriculture Rapid Response Program in Helmand Province

VZCZCXRO2526
PP RUEHDBU RUEHIK RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHSL RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #2939/01 2661426
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 231426Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1643
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 002939

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SRAP, SCA/FO, SCA/RA, SCA/A, AND INL/AP
DEPT PASS FOR AID/ASIA SCAA DRAY
DEPT PASS USDA FOR FAS MICHNER
CENTCOM FOR USFOR-A AND CSTC-A

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID EAGR ECON SNAR PGOV PINS AF
SUBJECT: AGRICULTURE RAPID RESPONSE PROGRAM IN HELMAND PROVINCE
MAKING PROGRESS IN SPITE OF CHALLENGES

Ref: Kabul 2383

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) USAIDQs agricultural rapid rmi
endorsed the plan and suggested a methodology to build Afghan
Government capacity by seconding new Ministry extension agents to
AVIPA PLUS to receive on-the-ground training, and identified a
salary mechanism to encourage staff to work in these difficult
ation in the
District Delivery program, a parallel U.S.-GIRoA effort to deliver
integrated governance packages to recently secured and/or strategic
districts (reftel). Nawa is one of six pilot districts selected for
this program. Septel will address this program.)

4. (SBU) Upon receiving MAIL/Kabul approval, USAID and USMC
facilitated a shura with the Nawa District Governor (DG) to
introduce IRD and the AVIPA PLUS program and discuss next steps
towards identifying projects and beneficiaries. Since then, in
close cooperation with the Afghan government and US and UK military,
three additional districts (Nahr-e Saraj, Nad-e Ali and Garmsir) in
Helmand were selected, and agreement was reached for USG to support
over 80% of the areas under Helmand Governor MangalQs QFood Zone
Program.

----------------------------
FACTORS COMPLICATING ROLLOUT
----------------------------


KABUL 00002939 002 OF 002


5. (SBU) After USAID-IRD arrived in Lashkar Gah on July 9, all
civilian flights to the region were suspended and ground movements
restricted from July 12 to August 3, effectively halting all
civilian passage into and out of Helmand. The mobile phone network
does not extend into the districts and only operates within Lashkar
Gah during the day, with frequent disruptions. In addition, during
this period all resources were focused on maintaining security for
national elections on August 20. Despite these obstacles, the
program has successfully established relationships with the PRT,
USMC, TFH, and Afghan provincial authorities, and as of August 17
had recruited 67 Afghans in Lashkar Gah.

6. (SBU) Since USAIDQs arrival, several underlying factors that will
directly affect AVIPA PLUS rollout have emerged: travel between
Lashkar Gah and the districts is largely non-permissive; the Nawa
District Governor (DG) lives within the USMC base for security
reasons; and MAIL has limited ability to provide district-level
support. USAID identified highly-qualified Afghan agricultural
experts but many continue to refuse to leave the security of Lashkar
Gah to return to their home districts. Agricultural projects must
be identified early to ensure alignment with planting seasons.

7. (SBU) AVIPA PLUS is dependent on freedom of movement so that
Afghan officials can meet openly with the people, and entrepreneurs
and farmers can access and move agricultural goods. In Nawa,
citizens must visit the USMC base if they wish to meet with the
District Governor; participation at public shuras is limited to
those willing to be seen visiting the base. Moreover, extension
agents do not feel secure enough to travel to farms to provide
technical assistance. These conditions in Nawa are not unique in
Helmand.

8. (SBU) While the Agricultural Ministry supports AVIPA PLUS, its
dependence on centralized decision-making could significantly slow
implementation. Additionally, the MinistryQs capacity to provide
local level support is limited; the 600 extension agents the
Ministry has recently hired have not yet deployed, and the acting
Helmand Department of Agriculture director receives little support
from Kabul and suffers from low staffing levels and poor capacity of
existing staff. Significant personnel changes are expected in
Helmand after the elections and bureaucratic infighting among
different local GIRoA departments leaves decision-making hostage to
personalities.

9. (SBU) Identifying and addressing such constraints will be key to
AVIPA PLUSQ success, and our efforts to move this program forward
must include US and coalition partners. The USG is working with
Task Force Helmand and the USMC at both the headquarters and
district levels to identify how best to utilize AVIPA PLUS to
achieve greater stability in the cleared areas. This includes
deciding which communities to work with and addressing how to move
agricultural goods between population centers.

10. (SBU) Despite these constraints, three additional districts in
Helmand (Garmsir, Nad-e Ali and Nahr-e Saraj) were selected for
inclusion in the program in close cooperation with the Afghan
government, Task Force Helmand, USMC, and Lashkar Gah PRT.
Cash-for-work projects have begun in Lashkar Gah, with additional
projects in Nawa slated to begin after Eid, providing jobs for at
least 220 laborers. An Afghan-led review committee in the Nawa
District GovernorQs Office formed to receive and review grant
applications. Seventy-seven grants, valued at $995,000 and
potentially benefitting nearly 1,600 Afghan farmers and small
business owners, have been received to date and are under review.
In addition, USG agreed to support over 80% of the areas under
Helmand Governor MangalQs QFood Zone Program.Q Initial projects are
employing over 100 day laborers to graft 155,000 tree saplings and
construct vineyard trellises to produce high-value fruits such as
apricots and plums in five key agricultural districts.

11. (SBU) Understanding how to work in the districts and which
activities to support under AVIPA PLUS activities is still a work in
progress and is heavily dependent on the reality and perception of
security for beneficiaries, host country officials and implementing
partners.


EIKENBERRY

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