Published: May 25th 2010May 24th 2010
The Arghandab Valley
A view from the air of this magnificent agricultural area. A veritable Shangri-La if only the people were left alone.
Our first field mission outside the compound was to the Arghandab Valley to the west of Kandahar City. The Arghandab River is a major flow from the Hindu Kush into the Helmand River and waters an enormous irrigated area that was constructed in the 1950s - by the USA. The valley is a veritable Shangri-La and used to be the food basket of not just Afghanistan but much of the region. It grows a profusion of pomegranate, grapes, wheat and all kinds of vegetables. Conflicts over the last 30 years have reduced its productivity, but the potential remains.
We drove from our secure compound in the centre of KC, kitted our in body armour and enclosed in armoured cars with teams of "shooters" hefting AK-74s (an upgraded '47) to the district HQ, in a fortified post with a magnificent view over the valley. Then to a farm which the landlord, probably absent in Pakistan or Dubai, had left in the care of his servants. This is where you feel really in bandit country, driving down narrow lanes with high mud walls enclosing the vehicles and nowhere to go if the Taliban springs an ambush or, more likely, sets off an
Looking up the valley from the fortified district HQ. The farm we visited is only a kilometre away, but in bandit country.
IED, left there on spec to catch a passing patrol.
But the farm was great. A huge area, probably 2-3 hectares of vegetables and pomegranates with cement-lined irrigation channels. It was a pleasant, if tense, escape from the confines of the compound and a chance to see what agriculture could be if only people were left alone to get on with their lives.
There are more photos below