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Back to Seized: The Soils of War
Box 2: Ramping Up U.S. Companies
in Afghanistan

The Soils of War

Barcelona, Spain

Box 2: Ramping Up U.S. Companies in Afghanistan

In 2003, USAID launched a project called Rebuilding Afghanistan’s Agricultural Markets Program (RAMP), a three-year project to be carried out in 13 provinces. It had two main objectives: to increase agricultural productivity and to link villages to markets. This programme clearly reflects the thinking behind “rebuilding”: it is understood as a process for integrating Afghan agriculture within the global trading system and for developing basic skills and tools for agribusiness. RAMP’s immediate beneficiaries were US companies. As a USAID brochure stated brazenly: “[RAMP] provides an excellent opportunity for U.S. equipment and service providers. Since a majority of funding is expected from U.S. sources, U.S. companies will definitely be given preference under RAMP. It is very important for U.S. firms to find good local Afghan companies to partner with under this activity.” (1)

One US private company to win a big contract under RAMP was Chemonics International Inc. Chemonics was charged with the construction of the airfield and agriculture centre in Helmand province and another series of contracts, worth a total of US$600m, for “socio-economic assessment” and “food security” in Afghanistan. Even though the latter was the largest contract the US government publicly awarded for work in the country, Chemonics was reluctant to provide details of the tasks it was contracted to undertake. The Center for Public Integrity, a Washington-based centre for investigative journalism, was unsuccessful in its repeated attempts to get Chemonics to provide it with copies of the contracts. (2)

RAMP’s projects are typically supplied and serviced by US firms, such as Valmont Industries Inc., which won contracts to supply mechanised irrigation equipment, and CDM, which served as a technical resource for water and irrigation projects in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2004. They also favour contract farming and foreign investment. Parwan Dehydrates Company, a vegetable exporting factory established through RAMP in Afghanistan’s Parwan province, has contracts with 1,200 farmers for the supply of dried vegetables. It is a joint venture between Development Works Corps (DWC), Canada, which holds 60 per cent of the equity, and the yet to be established Parwan Growers’ Association, which will hold the remaining 40 per cent. DWC is a member of USAID-RAMP. (3)

Aside from RAMP, Chemonics is carrying out another project for USAID -- the Accelerating Sustainable Agriculture Program (ASAP) (2006-10). The programme seeks to strengthen the role of private capital in agriculture and to develop the capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture to support it. As is stated in the programme, the emphasis is on “market-led solutions that help farmers and companies capitalize on new economic opportunities”. (4)

2. The Center for Public Integrity, Windfalls of war: Chemonics International Inc., 31 March 2004,
3. See Kenneth E. Neils, “Case Study: Vegetable Dehydration and Processing Factory in Afghanistan”. Another such venture is one focused on major replanting campaign targeted at revitalising Afghanistan’s formerly world-renowned table grape industry. Under initiatives designed with Roots of Peace, U.C. Davis shipped 4,000 grapevine cuttings to Afghanistan under a US$10-million contract from USAID.
4. See Chemonics’ website: