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Transforming Lives

Learning how to weave yarn

Like many Afghan refugees who fled Taliban rule in the 1990s, Laila returned from Iran in 2011, glad to be home but worried about the future. The mother of five was unsure how she would keep her family fed. It took two classes in rearing silkworms for Laila to realize that this might be the answer.

Manzoor Ahmad in his apricot orchard in Nangarhar

Until recently, farmers in eastern Afghanistan dreamt of a good harvest but were unable to make it a reality. Their orchards suffered from poor management and irrigation practices, and crucially, the inability to control winter pests. Then USAID started to educate them in February 2012 on the benefits of a pesticide called dormant, or winter, oil.

Nazira, at home in Parwan province

Nazira* cultivates a kitchen garden, selling the vegetables and earning more than she ever made as a seamstress. “I lost my father when I was a child. It’s up to me to support my family and now I can,” she says.

Afghan farmers are replacing disease-prone crops with imported virus-resistant plants.

Virus-resistant citrus plants are offering healthier prospects to farmers in eastern Afghanistan. Diseased rootstock has been replaced by 500,000 seedlings planted across 1,500 acres in Nangarhar, Laghman and Kunar provinces between 2010 and 2012. Five years from now, they are expected to yield a rich harvest every year, earning an estimated $3 million in combined fruit sales.

A fruit farmer, newly trained in pruning techniques, hard at work in an orchard in Nangarhar

Matiullah’s orchard produced nearly 60,000 kilos of apricots last season. It was a remarkable harvest from just two jeribs, says Matiullah, using the traditional Afghan unit, which equals 4,000 square meters. He says the yield is the result of professional pruning techniques. “We can easily control growth…not only do we get higher yields, harvesting is much easier.”

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Last updated: February 04, 2016

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