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GREEN BERETS; Scots botanists on a mission to defeat the Taliban - with PLANTS.

Byline: Neil Pooran

TWO Scots have returned from a top secret mission to help defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan - using plants.

Botanists Tony Miller and John Mitchell were in the war-torn country to teach Afghan students how to reduce poverty by growing crops.

Part of the aim of the trip - the first of its kind since the 1970s - is to help the population turn their back on the Taliban and years of violence.

Tony, 60, who had visited Afghanistan before and also carried out plant research in Iraq, said: "Clearly thoughts of biodiversity haven't been uppermost in people's minds in Afghanistan.

"But this is about creating 'resilience'. It's about helping people find new uses for plants and understanding the effects of climate change."

The men - who work at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh - had to keep their two-week trip secret to reduce the risk of kidnap. And they needed escorts by UN officials in heavily armoured vehicles.

The pair were given hostile environment awareness training before they set off and they were reminded of the danger as they flew into Kabul, passing over wrecks of planes and tanks. John said: "When you're flying over Afghanistan, it does hit you that this is a place where there is conflict."

But their time with a group of around 30 students in villages in Bamyan province passed without incident and the men hope their work proves valuable.

Tony added: "Some people ask, 'Why are you just collecting flowers?' But it's about alleviating poverty and helping the environment in the future."

CAPTION(S):

CROP TEAM John and Tony with Afghans they are helping build a better future DANGER Taliban fighter
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:9AFGH
Date:Jul 6, 2012
Words:277
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