Don Spinks - Afghan ingenuity

Running time
3 min 23 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


I think you can watch all the pictures and all the movies and you can read all about it, the topography and the demographics and the population, all the rest, but it's not until you get dust on your boots that you really get a full appreciation for it. And the conditions as well, extremely hot to extremely cold.

I come in at the beginning of the fighting season and went out in the depth of their winter, so you got to see all levels of extreme. But yeah, one thing to read about it or to be briefed on it, but another thing to actually get out on the ground and experience it…And the starkness.

So looking out in the Dasht, or the desert, and the mountains and the clear definition on a really sharp, clear day, and look back to the Rud, or where the river is, and the green is just absolutely amazing. And it stops and starts like a line on a piece of paper. So it's not sort of peters out and then becomes desert, et cetera, it's as defined as that.

So wherever you can get water to dirt, you can grow stuff, and they're quite good in agricultural space, but they're amazing aquifers to me. We'd be out in the middle of a little valley or gully, stomping along, and you come across a roaring channel of water, and you could see the rivers below you, and it might be at one kilometre or two kilometres away from you.

You just go, "How did this water get here?" Simply, they would pipe it off, tap it off from a couple of kilometres upstream, and then just follow the contours of the land and you come to this valley and it's beautiful and green and this crop's growing. Yet you know you're nowhere near a water source and they've used the lay of the land and their knowledge of how to channel water and how to move water around. Phenomenal. And coming from a dairy farm, I was fascinated.

And we had flood irrigation, as well as irrigation systems, but nothing of the complexity that these fellas, the farmers were dealing with. And of course, it's so easy for someone upstream just to cut your water off, so you'd imagine that there would be quite a few blues over control of water. But that was one thing, and you talk about what things really stood out.

It was just their amazing ability to move water around so that they could then farm and crop. Just amazing. No technology. So the village might have a tractor or someone would have a tractor, and certainly amazing patchwork. Those that had electricity don't go and run your occ health and safety or work health and safety pen over the cabling, et cetera.

Certainly in the cities, it's just a mass of wires. But amazing communicators. I mean, they communicate across a province with a handheld radio and a little bit of antenna. They just really were brilliant at that communication, but very basic, very rudimentary. As I said, one tractor per village or something like that, and yet they manage to get by.

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