Marja Farmers Mobilize for Change

Abdul Mutalib, District Governor of Marja, cuts the ribbon on one of four tractors awarded to two Marja cooperatives, part of an
Abdul Mutalib, District Governor of Marja, cuts the ribbon on one of four tractors awarded to two Marja cooperatives, part of an in-kind grant through USAID’s AVIPA Plus project.
IRD/AVIPA Plus
In-kind equipment grants provided by USAID help break gridlock in volatile southern district
16 NOVEMBER 2010 | HILMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
 
For the past eight months, farmers in the southern Afghan district of Marja have lived in fear of accepting government or foreign aid.  Assassinations, road bombs, and night letters intimidated the local population.
 
Then, a group of farmers decided they had enough.  Banding together, they arrived at the district center to claim tool kits consisting of wheelbarrows, rakes, and shovels provided by USAID’s Afghanistan Vouchers for Increased Production in Agriculture (AVIPA) Plus project.  For months, the farm tools and implements had remained unclaimed.  Other farmers followed, and during a five-day period, roughly 2,000 local farmers turned out to claim tool kits.  “If everyone has these tools, what can the Taliban do?  They can’t kill all of us,” remarked Noor Mohammed Shah, a tribal elder.
 
Two local cooperatives soon followed suit becoming the first recipients of AVIPA Plus in-kind grants in the district.  At a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by District Governor Abdul Mutalib, each cooperative received a wheat thresher, flourmill, seed cleaner, sheller, and two tractors.
 
“For a long time, people were afraid to claim this equipment,” said tribal elder Noor.  “Eventually they realized it was in their best interest and that their lives would improve.”
 
More than seventy local farmers turned out for the ceremony as District Governor Mutalib handed over the equipment to representatives of local cooperatives.  The farmers cheered as the tractors were started up and driven out of the district center.
 
“It’s dangerous to be seen on these tractors,” Noor reflected.  “The Taliban will be looking for us, but there are many of us and few of them.  This is an important day.”
 
The united action by Marja farmers marks a shift toward greater stabilization in an area once plagued by insurgent activity.  By providing farmers with the resources to improve their livelihoods, USAID projects like AVIPA Plus help create a more stable society and build trust between citizens and their government.

Last updated: January 07, 2014

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