Tractors, tools granted by USAID/AVIPA Plus bring risks and rewards to farming cooperative in southern Afghanistan.
11 OCTOBER 2010 | ARGHANDAB DISTRICT, KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
Ghulam Farooq Ahmadzada has always fought for causes in which he believes. Thirty years ago, he joined the mujahedeen against the Soviets and then fought in the Afghan civil war. Now he’s fighting against the Taliban–without guns. Ahmadzada heads a cooperative of 150 farmers in Palezai. Cooperatives let farmers share resources while presenting a united front against those threatening their lives and livelihoods.
In the spring of 2010, 44 cooperatives in Arghandab applied with their district government to receive tractors and tools as in-kind grants from Afghanistan Vouchers for Increased Production in Agriculture (AVIPA) Plus, a USAID funded stabilization project. But, when the equipment arrived, only the Paleizai cooperative publicly claimed their grant; the others yielded to threats by the Taliban who oppose modernization.
The cooperative once owned two unreliable tractors that farmers would rent out for $1 an hour, a fee only the better-off could afford. At a grant award ceremony, Ahmadzada accepted the keys of three gleaming new tractors for his cooperative and said the new equipment will transform his village’s economy. “Now,” Ahmadzada says, “farmers can rent new reliable tractors at a fourth of the price.”
Trust is another benefit of the cooperative, says the governor. “A year ago, no one came to the District Center. This year, there’s anywhere between 50 and 100 farmers a day seeking an appointment in my office.”
Ahmadzada knows that by accepting the equipment he is risking the lives of his family, friends, and himself. Emphatically thumping his cane on the ground, he says that security will have to improve before families can properly tend to their farms. “When security improves, I’ll be able to tend my fields every day and harvest crops twice a season, growing three times more produce.”
He will urge his cooperative to stand openly against the Taliban by working together with the government and USAID. “Let them come,” he says defiantly, mounting one of the new tractors and planting his hands on the wheel. “We are not afraid.”
Last updated: January 20, 2015