March 2017—Until recently, Shamsudin* and other farmers in Argo district received little support from Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture and were forced to deal with the challenges of farming on their own. “Nobody from the Ministry of Agriculture visited me for two years, nor did I receive any assistance,” he said.
Yet according to Mohammad Hakim, agriculture service manager at the ministry’s Argo district office, staff were far from indifferent to the farmers’ struggles. Rather, they were eager to help.
“My three colleagues and I were sad seeing farmers coming for help while we could do so little. We didn’t have electricity in our office, nor any other equipment. It was difficult to prepare even a simple document. We lacked experience and didn’t know how to plan, how to report, or how to fill in budget-related forms,” Hakim said.
Today, the situation in Argo district is looking brighter. For several years, USAID has been strengthening Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture and its 20 provincial and 50 district offices through its Capacity Building and Change Management Program-II. By providing the ministry’s civil servants with equipment and long-term coaching and mentoring, USAID has helped the ministry significantly improve its capacity to deliver services to farmers.
“Providing equipment, solar electricity, and training motivated and encouraged the civil servants,” said Abdul Wodood Wadeed, who leads the USAID effort in Badakhshan province. “Before we started our activities here, they were coming to the office once or twice a week. Now this office is a place where farmers are coming for assistance and advice knowing somebody will be there for them.”
USAID started its activities in Badakhshan two years ago. More than 170,000 farmers depend on the assistance from provincial and district agriculture offices in this most remote and inaccessible province of Afghanistan. Shamsudin is just one of many farmers who have noticed the difference.
“One of the ministry’s extension officers, Mr. Hakim, visits me monthly now,” he said. “In the spring, the ministry gave me 50 kilograms of improved wheat seed, and Mr. Hakim taught me new techniques for watering, fertilizing and weeding my crops. This autumn I was able to harvest 170 seer (1,190 kilograms) of wheat—70 seer (490 kilograms) more than last year. We sold all the wheat we don’t need for ourselves, and with the additional income, I was able to buy warm clothes for my family. We will also have more money to better cope with Badakhshan’s harsh and long winter.”
USAID’s Capacity Building and Change Management Program-II runs from 2014 to 2017.
*Many Afghans use only one name.
Last updated: March 13, 2017