22 Jun
An Unliklely Flowering in Helmand

Posted by Kenneth Helphand in the Afghanistan archive

 

Helmand Province’s peace garden

Local gardeners have created a tranquil space in the military headquarters of Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan
Alison Baskerville
guardian.co.uk

Garden in Lashkar Gah

The gardens of Lashkar Gah offer a contrast to the hostile environment. Photograph: Sergeant Alison Baskerville RLC

As a member of the army combat camera team based in Afghanistan, my role is to cover everything that the military does, whether that’s a full-scale helicopter-borne assault, or a female engagement team teaching Afghan women how better to look after their family’s animals.

I served 12 years in the RAF as a policewoman, spending time with the army on deployments in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Iraq. After I left the RAF, I completed a master’s degree in photojournalism, joined the Territorial Army as a photographer, and volunteered to come out with the CCT to Afghanistan.

Finding this garden was a complete shock. It’s so unexpected, a flower garden that has been cultivated and grown by local people, in the middle of a military headquarters – Lashkar Gah is the main headquarters for Task Force Helmand, in Helmand Province. The garden was started by some British civilians, about three years ago, and I think the intention was just some flower beds outside the main building. Then three gardeners were employed who decided they wanted their own areas to cultivate, and now there are three gardens within the space. These men have made the gardens what they are; they come in, spend all day working, then quietly go home again.

What they have created is such a contrast to the very hot, dusty and sometimes extremely hostile environment of Afghanistan. They have planted a combination of local flowers and seeds that have been sent over from the UK. The hollyhocks are pretty impressive - some of them are taller than most of the people on the base – and the roses are startling, because you don’t expect to see an English rose in the middle of Afghanistan.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

24 Jul
Bradley J. Kohn 1stBDE/205th Corps Sept. 28, 2006

Posted by admin in the Afghanistan archive

Dear Professor Helphand,

Thank you for your recent email letter. I am sorry it took so long to reply to you. The operational tempo has been quite high in the Kandahar Province where my FOB, (forward operating base) is located. I command the 1st Brigade 205th Corps US team and mentor the Afghan equivelent. I have been in Afghanistan about five months and have seen many areas and ground locations, because I have eight FOBs or fire bases spread through out the Kandahar, Orzugun and Dey Kundi provinces.

My sister, Wendy Adams who you met in San Antonio told me about your book the Defiant Gardens. I am intrigued about it. Your letter describes some interesting aspects of your research, and will be interested in reading it. I have been an organic gardener most of my adult life. I have lived in the Coos Bay and North Bend area for many years, and have had gardens most of the time. My wife Kellea and I really enjoy tending our gardens and watching the plants mature and bear. I am interested in the growing process and much as the eating and giving away the fruits of our labors. We grow a multitude of flowers, plants and crops.

In Afghanistan there is not much greenery in most of the southern part of the country where I am. There is a lot of gray dirt, sand and desert. When we see a small farming area or a vineyard it is a sight for sore eyes. At my FOB there is nothing as far as plant life. It is devoid of green living things, something we all treasure. The last thirty years of war have left the land devoid of infrastructure and the once thriving green agrarian economy. It is really a shame. One of our 205th Corps Commanders Emergency Reconstruction Team (CERT) projects is to bring one square kilometer into full agricultural fruition. Creating jobs and food is the project goal.

My wife sent me some seeds to begin a garden several months ago. I began planting the melon and squash seeds along a fence line next to my Hqs. building. The plants took off very well and began to thrive. But the giant hedgehogs that are indigenous here, had a field day, and destroyed my first crop. We decided to build raised beds from ammo boxes and put the beds on top of our bunkers. This is where we are at the moment. I have a compost pile started with shredded documents, dirt, vegetable waste, along with goat and sheep droppings. Water was a problem too, since we had only bottled water when I arrived here. Now we have a well to provide more water for our needs.

The temperature in the summer is between 125 to 145 degrees in the peak of the day. Water is very important for things to thrive here. The melons grown here are absolutely wonderful. They grow a melon here called Stambul. It is used as a fragrant smell. People use it in their homes and cars. I have collected many seeds to take home to North Bend in hopes of growing some of the things I have found here in Afghanistan.

We have a multitude of offensive missions going on all the time with my seven Kandak(battalions). It is hard to give the attention to my morale, welfare and recreation projects, but my men volunteer to take on the building of the raised beds and watering projects. We all like the idea of real beautiful food that add color and taste to our lives here and to be doing something else beside war time missions. The goal is to see and taste home while we are all serving our country.

24 Jul
LT Janette Arencibia Kabul, Afghanistan Oct. 2006

Posted by admin in the Afghanistan archive

garden-of-afghan-soldier.jpg… I have been here for three weeks and have a year to go. Other
soldiers (including coalition forces) have been establishing gardens in
this country for the last several years.

… My job as a gardener is to share my passion
with the other wonderful individuals who have already made Afghanistan
more beautiful.

I am attaching a few pictures from a small garden in Kabul, specifically
at Camp Cobra, an Afghan National Army base. This garden was created by
an officer in the Afghan National Army with a passion for flowers. I
listened to him passionately tell the story of the origin of the seeds -
tremendous!

photo-courtesy-of-the-ministry-of-culture-and-livestock.JPG