Afghanistan

FAO awards a cooperative farmer from Afghanistan

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Bangkok, 16 Oct 2008 -- Today, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presented FAO awards to four Asian farmers for outstanding achievements in the areas of cooperatives (Afghanistan), biogas (China), integrated farming (Viet Nam), and organic horticulture (Thailand) during the Asia-Pacific observance of World Food Day at the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

Below is the text of the citation for the model cooperative farmer from Afghanistan read during the ceremony:

FAO awards a cooperative farmer from Afghanistan

From the time he was about eight years old, Haji Aminullah and his farming family in Afghanistan experienced hardship. First, the communists invaded. Then came the Taliban. Both would descend upon his village of Nahrin in northeastern Baghlan province. The Taliban demanded money and at least 50 percent of the family's crops of wheat, corn and other food. After surrendering the fruits of their labors, many people in the village were left hungry and malnourished.

When the Taliban were finally driven out in 2001, the farmers of Nahrin hoped their community would see better times. But thing were not so easy. Each farmer worked by himself, and competed to sell at the lowest prices possible after harvesting. "Everybody followed their own path,'' Aminullah says. "It was anarchy.''

Then the new Afghan government made them an offer. It would provide financial and technical assistance to farmers if they would work together in cooperatives. Aminullah and his neighbors jumped at the chance.

His community had several strengths to work with. Unlike many parts of Afghanistan which are desert, the northeast has four seasons and enough rain. And just as important, the various tribes in the area, such as Fars, Uzbeks, Turkmen, Pashtoons and others, all lived together without conflict or acrimony.

Aminullah's father had been one of the more successful farmers in the region before the conflicts started. He passed much of his knowledge on to his son. And so the farmers of Nahrins elected Aminullah as chief of their new cooperative. Aminullah, in turn, has passed on the knowledge he gained for his father, and from attending government seminars, to the 600 fellow members of the cooperative.

With technical assistance from the government, Aminullah and his fellow farmers have learned about better fertilizers and certified seeds. The result is that the cooperative's cereal production has increased 20 to 30 percent. Thanks to vaccinations and better animal husbandry techniques, their herds of lamb and beef have also increased by 20 percent. And the honey from their new beekeeping operations is sought after all over the country.

The cooperative has been so successful, Aminullah says, that factory workers, drivers and even religious leaders have asked for advice on forming their own cooperatives.

Aminullah says that all the 600 members of the Nahrin cooperative deserve this Model Farmer Award. "This really belongs to them,'' he says, ''because everybody's efforts were what made us successful.''

For the future, Aminullah would like to see his cooperative do well enough so that its profits can be used to invest in irrigation systems and other infrastructure that will continue to improve the lives and well being of his community.

And he would like the Afghan government, and the governments of the world to join in and lend a helping hand. "Eighty percent of Afghan people are involved in agriculture. Even our leaders and others who live in cities can't survive without the food we farmers produce, so please help us to improve our lives and our productivity,'' Aminullah says.

"We want the world know that the farmers of Afghanistan want to stand on our own feet. But we also want to walk with and work with others in the world community,'' he says.

From war and conflict to supporting each other in cooperatives, Aminullah and the farmers of Nahrin in Afghanistan are showing us all that the world is full of hope when people work together.