A New Family Tradition

Ahmad Jan cultivates a six-hectare plot of land in Kandahar Province with his 11 children and another 20 family members.
Ahmad Jan cultivates a six-hectare plot of land in Kandahar Province with his 11 children and another 20 family members.
IRD/AVIPA Plus
23 SEPTEMBER 2010 | TAKHTA PUL, KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN Like many Afghans, Ahmad Jan has the support of a large family unit bound by strong traditions. He cultivates a six-hectare plot of land in Takhta Pul located in Kandahar Province with his
“We were doing all the things our parents and grandparents did, and that was part of the problem.”—Ahmad Jan, farmer, Kandahar
23 SEPTEMBER 2010 | TAKHTA PUL, KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
 
Like many Afghans, Ahmad Jan has the support of a large family unit bound by strong traditions.  He cultivates a six-hectare plot of land in Takhta Pul located in Kandahar Province with his 11 children and another 20 family members.  Although this land has been with the family through three decades of war, its ouput has never enabled them to do more than just get by.
 
Today, thanks to training and seed inputs from USAID’s Afghanistan Vouchers for Increased Production in Agriculture (AVIPA) Plus program, Ahmad Jan’s family garden is thriving, with some crops now producing twice their former yield.
 
He admits that it wasn’t easy learning agricultural techniques that seemed to contradict the way he’d been taught by his elders.  For example, Ahmad Jan had always scattered seed rather than plant it in rows with spacing between the seeds.  When the concentration of seed was too great, the plants would choke each other out.  Too thin and the land wouldn’t bring forth its optimal yield.
 
During an agriculture training course, Ahmad Jan learned from district agricultural extension agents how to tell the difference between quality and inferior grades of seed.  He learned when to water his plants and when to leave them alone.  He also learned about fertilization and pruning.
 
On a scorching summer day, Ahmad Jan’s family pitches in to help with the harvest.  Their heads pop up between the lush rows as they place melons, tomatoes, cucumbers, and okra in buckets bound for market.  Even his youngest kids lend their hands.
 
“They didn’t like this work before.  They weren’t interested.  Now they’ve caught the excitement and want to help,” he says.
 
Ahmad Jan stops his youngest son from plucking an unripened eggplant.  “Like you, this plant needs more time on the vine,” he says.  Crouching beside the child, Ahmad Jan gives him a quick lesson in farming, one that the boy may one day repeat to his sons.

Last updated: December 30, 2013

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