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Cablegate: Governor,S Avipa Plus Announcement for Arghandab

VZCZCXRO5117
OO RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHBUL #3739/01 3260558
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 220558Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3331
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 003739

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SRAP, SCA/FO, SCA/A, EUR/RPM
STATE PASS USAID FOR ASIA/SCAA
USFOR-A FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM EAGR PGOV AF
SUBJECT: GOVERNOR,S AVIPA PLUS ANNOUNCEMENT FOR ARGHANDAB
WELL RECEIVED

REF: KABUL 3737

1. (SBU) Summary and comment. At a November 5 shura in
Arghandab District, Kandahar, southern Afghanistan, Governor
Wesa announced the USAID Afghanistan Vouchers for Increased
Production in
Agriculture (AVIPA) Plus program for the Arghandab valley.
After a thorough explanation of the counterinsurgency
stability program which focuses on agriculture support, the
shura elders praised the provincial and district government's
initiative on bringing the program to Arghandab district.
Elders also voiced concerns that will need addressing to
fully implement the AVIPA Plus program, which include
absentee land ownership, corrupt agriculture cooperatives,
and security. Given high level of participation from the
provincial and district governments coupled with the high
attendance by local elders and farmers, this shura and
program rollout can be seen as a success that will need to be
maintained through quick implementation. End summary and
comment.

POSITIVE LAUNCH FOR AVIPA PLUS
------------------------------

2. (SBU) At a November 5 shura at the Arghandab district
center, Kandahar Governor Tooryalai Wesa announced the
rollout of the USAID Afghanistan Voucher for Increased
Production in Agriculture (AVIPA) Plus program for the
troubled Arghandab Valley. The Governor opened the meeting by
explaining the program, which is primarily designed to serve
as a counterinsurgency stability tool, to a well-attended
group of elders and farmers, and noting the program's three
major components:

-- Agriculture inputs: provide: subsidized saplings, wheat
seed and other agriculture inputs to farmers through the
equitable voucher system
-- Cash-for-work projects: offer temporary employment and
income to local laborers, particularly young men, through
short-term public works projects
-- Grants: award small grants to agribusiness and
community-based associations in support of the agriculture
economy

3. (SBU) The shura was well-attended by local villagers in
large part because the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives
(USAID/OTI) in Arghandab district had participated in patrols
with the military Stryker Brigade the previous day,
encouraging Nagahan villagers to go to the district center to
air their grievances while provincial officials were present.

4. (SBU) Wesa challenged the crowd, telling them that the
outcome and success of the program depended on the people of
Kandahar. He further emphasized the importance of provincial
sustainability that can only be achieved by the people and
not through reliance on "foreigners." (Note: Wesa was eager
to announce the program as his own initiative after
expressing to PRT members on November 4 his perception that
he could not establish good governance in the province when
the population viewed all development benefits being derived
from the international community. End note.) Kandahar City
Mayor Hamidi and other provincial and Arghandab district
leaders echoed the Governor's comments and gave full support
for the program, which is to be delivered via the Kandahar
Agriculture Ministry.

CONCERNS BY ELDERS
------------------

5. (SBU) The announcement was well-received by those in
attendance who noted that the Arghandab Valley was the "right
place" to start the AVIPA Plus program given its long
agriculture history. However, a few of the elders also
raised problems that have been plaguing the agriculture
sector in the area for some time:

-- Absentee Land Ownership: The elders noted that absentee
land ownership impedes farmers' ability to make permanent
improvements to the land they are tending.
-- Corrupt Agriculture Cooperatives: Many in the crowd
pointed to the long-standing issues surrounding the
agriculture cooperatives in the area, which have been known
to resell used or broken equipment and could be bribed. The
Governor responded by asking these farmers to create their
own cooperative with trusted members, and the District
Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (DAIL) Director
stressed to the elders that these problems needed to be

KABUL 00003739 002 OF 002


reported quickly for action to be taken.
-- Security: A few elders pointed out that if they cannot
work on their farms or orchards due to security concerns that
they could not prevent theft on their lands. The Governor
and Kandahar City Mayor assured the crowd that they were
working with the ANA on security. (Note: Many areas of
Arghandab remain kinetic, and following the shura, a US
military convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device as
it departed the shura. End note.)

COMMENT
-------

6. (SBU) This shura is a great success in that it serves as a
strong example of connecting GIRoA to the people. First,
from a political perspective, officials from the provincial
and district levels addressed a group of elders and district
citizens as a unified body, showing solidarity and support
for a program that will directly benefit Kandahar. Second,
in what hopes to be the first of many joint appearances, this
is the first time that many of these officials had visited
Arghandab, which went a long way with
the people. Third, the shura was heavily attended, and the
mood was positive following the announcement of the AVIPA
program, opening a vital window of opportunity in this
district.

7. (SBU) However, it is important to also note that the
elders complained that similar promises for support had been
made in the past with little to no follow-up. Therefore,
while keeping the security conditions in mind, expeditious
movement on this program is key to maintaining the positive
momentum captured at this event.
Mussomeli

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