Showing posts with label PRTs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PRTs. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 4


Sometimes nature prefers order, too.

Provincial Reconstruction Teams are wrapping up their work in the provinces of Afghanistan and saying farewells. US Army Spc Brian Smith-Dutton writes a beautiful article for Clarksville Online about the agriculture PRT in Khowst.

“Our emphases has been row planting, basic crop rotation, soil management for pest control, animal care, crop selection, green house management and low tunnel green house development,” said US Army Major Gregory Motz.

The team convinced some Afghan farmers that planting corn in rows would produce a larger crop. And one young Afghan farmer had a wager with his father over rows - and by the end of the season could show that rows produced more corn with half the seed. 

In the article, Motz described the work as the best job he's had in the Army. "To be able to see the progress the Afghans have made in a year and know that it isn’t because we did it for them, but with them."

Fear of Beauty tells the story of a fictional Provincial Reconstruction Team, struggling to provide similar agriculture advice in a remote part of northern Helmand Province - and of course, one of the characters is keen on wheat.  And as Motz suggests, the most successful team members are those who focus on "working with" rather than "did it for them."

Photo of corn field in Afghanistan, no rows, courtesy of 1stLt Kurt Stahl, US Marines and Wikimedia Commons; corn field row in Indiana, courtesy of Huw Williams (Huwmanbeing) and Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, March 28

Divided partners

Fear of Beauty and this blog describe the role of the provincial reconstruction teams - groups of civilian and military specialists - in Afghanistan as they provide technical advice and support in agriculture, education, health care, construction and many other areas. Of course, some teams have produced great achievements and others have been less successful. Philosophies differ, as demonstrated by the quarrels between Cameron and Mita in Fear of Beauty. So much depends how the teams worked with local governments.

Alexandra Gheciu details and analyzes NGO concerns about the PRTs in an article "Divided Partners: The Challenges of NATO-NGO Cooperation in Peacebuilding Operations" for Global Governance:

"From NATO's point of view, the contemporary blurring of boundaries between civilian and military actions in peacebuilding operations can be seen as an opportunity to bring into the sphere of humanitarian activity some of the advantages of the military culture of efficiency. But from the perspective of many NGOs, the existing blurring of boundaries is a deeply problematic development that should be contained and, as much as possible, reversed. What is needed, according to this logic, is a clear separation between the military and humanitarian norms and activities, and an affirmation of the leading role of humanitarian organizations in the definition of the rules of the game in activities that involve assistance to civilians in war-torn countries."

Gheciu concludes that a lack of coordination will only lead to more disagreements, wasted resources and "growing disenchantment both in the territories undergoing postconflict reconstruction and in the international community - with international peacebuilding operations."

Strong opinions are the norm. People quarrel, institutions quarrel - and with luck, communities progress.

Wednesday, February 13

On literacy

Illiteracy weakens societies:

"it’s a mistake to think we can glide through modern life unaffected by others’ struggles with literacy. Consider the manufacturing employee who can’t read warnings on labels, mixing the wrong chemicals and releasing a gas that injures co-workers or home health aides earning minimum wage who can’t follow directions on medication packages or equipment. Too many legislators and citizens don’t read bills before the votes are cast. And then there was the subprime mortgage debacle, with thousands of home buyers trusting loan officers on unrealistic and unaffordable terms, signing toxic contracts that eventually threatened the global economy.... Reading and writing, early steps to seducing the hearts and minds of others through the arts, are tools of power, suggests Robert Greene in The 48 Laws of Power ... Those who belittle education and reading would deny others power."