Starting with broccoli and cauliflower, the Defense Logistics Agency is purchasing local fresh fruit and vegetables for service members and civilians serving in Afghanistan.
The first two Afghan produce items were served to customers in December. By this summer, 23 fresh fruit and vegetables will be purchased from Afghan farmers through DLA Troop Support’s Subsistence prime vendor contract, said Tom Daley, the supply chain’s deputy director.
Increasing local procurement in Afghanistan isan important step in promoting the development of the Afghan private sector and supporting the country’s economic development, according to NATO’s Afghan First Policy. The policy aims to strengthen NATO’s contribution to the Afghan economy.
The local purchases are also expected to have a tactical benefit.
“Local fresh fruit and vegetables are a way to keep farmers on the farm and keep them out of the [improvised explosive device] factories,” said Army Brig. Gen. Steven Shapiro, DLA Troop Support commander.
Before becoming commander in August, Shapiro deployed to Afghanistan as 1st Theater Sustainment Command’s deputy commanding general. He said buying local produce in bulk was discussed for years and that he experienced the difficulties of trying to do so.
DLA Troop Support Subsistence leaders and the organization’s industry partner have solved a problem that will have a long-lasting impact on Afghanistan, Shapiro said.
Anham FZCO, based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, made its first deliveries as the subsistence prime vendor in Afghanistan in September. The company has a five-and-a-half-year contract worth an estimated $8.1 billion to provide food support to U.S. and coalition service members and civilians at more than 150 locations throughout Afghanistan.
Through the contract, Anham is improving infrastructure and supporting Afghan farmers, which company officials said led to the supply of more than 38,000 pounds of locally grown produce in December.
Anham and its partners plan to provide training for nearly 20,000 farmers on sustainable agricultural and health practices, including watering and irrigation techniques.
Two pack-houses were built to receive, sort and process shipments of fresh fruit and vegetables throughout Afghanistan. Other infrastructure improvements are also related to farming, food inspection and distribution, including two state-of-the-art warehouses.
Purchasing local produce could boost the Afghan farming industry into a sustainable commercial platform, long outliving the subsistence contract and the International Security Assistance Force presence, according to Anham officials.
“This helps feed service members and helps employ Afghans, which helps win the war,” Shapiro said. “This could be a big part of our legacy.”
Soldiers and civilians select from an assortment of fresh fruit and vegetables at a Kandahar Airfield dining facility in Afghanistan in 2012. DLA Troop Support Subsistence is now purchasing produce from Afghan farmers through its prime vendor contract. Photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Theresa Gualdarama