From Parched Fields to Verdant Orchards: Promoting Sustainable Agriculture in AfghanistanPublished: Nov 5, 2019 Reading time: 3 minutes
Mohammad* is a farmer in northern Afghanistan. After several years of drought, poor harvests and weak income prompted Mohammad to consider alternative means of supporting his family of nine. Then, an innovative farming initiative organized by People in Need (PIN) helped Mohammad turn his fortunes around by converting parched fields into verdant orchards.
In 2017, Mohammad was a beneficiary in a PIN training program that taught farmers how to grow fruit- and nut-producing trees in places where the only source of irrigation is rain or snow. Unlike row crops, which require frequent watering, orchards are more resilient to dry conditions. “The team came to our village and explained the possibility of establishing a garden on rain-fed land, which really encouraged me to establish [an orchard],” Mohammad recalls.
Orchard as main source of income
After surveying his land, PIN’s technical staff selected Mohammad’s farm, located in the village of northern Afghanistan, as a demonstration plot. The team also trained Mohammad on how to manage his orchard. “I learned how to mulch and prune, store rainwater in the water reservoir using natural resource management techniques, and how to prevent the loss of rainwater,” he says.
Now, two years later, Mohammad is seeing the fruits of his labor. On his orchard of one jerib (about half an acre) he has grapes, pistachios and almonds, as well as berries and non-fruit trees like Russian willows which provides greenery, shade and later also timber. He estimates that roughly 95% of his tree and shrub seedlings have grown into viable crops. “I see my seedlings grow well, and that makes me more interested in gardening and orchard management,” he says, adding that his orchard is now his main source of income.
Sharing knowledge with others
Mohammad has also shared his newly acquired farming techniques with dozens of farmers in his village. After learning about his methods, many even told Mohammad that they, too, will convert portions of their fields into orchards.
Recalling his initial interaction with PIN, Mohammad says he wasn’t convinced he could convert his fields into fruit- and nut-producing trees. But in the first year after PIN’s intervention, his seedlings grew well and the vines flourished daily. Now, two years later, Mohammad’s new orchards are fruitful. “It is unbelievable,” he says. “No one in my area remembers trees growing and producing fruit.” Mohammad concludes: “I am very happy now. I hope my planted trees become a good source of income for my family and create a clean environment for my village.”
The 40-month-long project, “Natural Resource Management and Promotion of Sustainable Agrarian Livelihoods,” supported 6,500 households (45,500 individuals) in three districts in Afghanistan’s northern Samangan Province. The project was funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and implemented by People in Need, its Alliance2015 partner Welthungerhilfe, and Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (CHA). The project provided livelihood-training to people in 75 rural communities through effective resource management and the creation of sustainable sources of income.
* Names of people have been changed in the article for security reasons.