Updated: 02/28/2013 10:28 PM KSTP.com By: Mark Albert
Locked in a past era, farmers in Afghanistan are now using Minnesota aid to harvest their future.
"It will have a tremendous impact," said Mustafa Omar, executive director of Shelter for Life International.
The Minnetonka-based non-profit has spent the past three years administering a $12 million US Dept. of Agriculture grant to help farmers in Afghanistan. Half of the money was used the purchase nearly half a billion Minnesota soybean seeds.
The 68 metric-ton shipment arrived in the landlocked country this week, bound for two northern provinces where it is expected to be distributed to 5,000 farmers.
Minnesota farmers also donated organic fertilizer and planting equipment.
"There's a humanitarian reason for Minnesotans to care about this," Omar explained, which will lead to "healthier animals, healthier families, and greater security and economic stability."
Dena Lewerke of Iowa Falls is in the south Asian country now, waiting for the Minnesota shipment to arrive.
"I wanted to be here to help," Lewerke told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in a web interview from Afghanistan.
Lewerke said the seeds not only allow farmers to grow a healthy, protein-filled renewable crop, but will allow them - many for the first time - to sell crops commercially to support their families, instead of relying on an often-ineffective government or local militants for food and money.
"It makes a huge difference in people's lives here," said Lewerke.
"It will help them to survive... and improve their harvests, improve their livelihoods, and improve the opportunities for their children in the future."
View a slideshow of photos and video from Afghanistan with farmers who received donated Iowa soybean seeds last year. Content courtesy: Shelter for Life International.