Farming innovations improve livelihoods and incomes in Afghanistan’s Balkh Province
BY AHMAD FAHIM JABARI
Every working day, I work closely with my colleagues and coordinate with other stakeholders. I am happy with my job as a member of the National Horticulture and Livestock Project (NHLP) because we work to strengthen rural development, the foundation of Afghanistan’s economy.
When I joined NHLP as the information and communication officer in 2009, I realized that farmers in northern Afghanistan were all but unaware of improved practices and technologies in horticulture, livestock, and irrigation systems. Their production and productivity were low, and maintaining consistent product quality was a challenge. As a person who studied agriculture and has lived in northern Afghanistan, I remember that farmers were never convinced by the idea of adopting modern horticultural techniques and, despite their hard work, they earned little.
At the beginning of the project, it was hard for the farmers to trust NHLP, the new techniques that were introduced were proven to be more efficient and economically viable. The project is transforming the traditional system of horticulture and livestock to a more productive and modern one. The new orchards are designed and laid out well, and planted with fruit saplings that are marketable and adapted to the weather and geography of the province.
Through the NHLP, we have provided support to farmers in northern Afghanistan, including Balkh Province. In Balkh Province, NHLP has more than 60 different horticulture and livestock activities. The project has, for example, established about 2,000 hectares of new orchards and more than 150 water harvesting and catchment structures. Further, over 2,000 women have received kitchen gardening support, while 1,100 women have received poultry support.
Day by day, our efforts in NHLP are showing positive results. Farmers are using the agro-techniques learnt through the project to continously improve results. NHLP interventions have changed the lives of many farmers, women and men, by encouraging and supporting them to cultivate marketable products. The farmers supply local and national markets, and in some areas, they produce enough to export. We can see high quality horticulture and livestock products by Afghan farmers in the markets, which clearly show NHLP contributions. More farmers are becoming interested in knowing about the project, with the interest growing each year.
Farmers now believe NHLP to be their own project and are willing to adopt the improved technologies on a shared cost basis. With this support, we have been able to expand our activities in most areas. When we travel around the northern provinces, we can see the new orchard systems, modern horticulture methods, great products, new raisin drying houses, new irrigation systems, and improved livestock husbandry. Sadly, the security situation of our country sometimes adds to the challenges of the NHLP team, but we manage to do our field activities when the situation improves.
From farmers to their families to communities, NHLP is making lives better and richer in rural Afghanistan and I am proud of being part of the story.
NHLP operates under the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL). With a $190 million grant from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), NHLP is working toward the overarching goal of promoting the adoption of improved production practices by the target farmers with gradual roll-out of farmer-centric service delivery system and investment support. Its horticultural activities are currently implemented in about 300 districts in 31 target provinces, numbers that may grow as conditions allow. The project will run through to the end of 2020.