In northern Afghanistan, nearly 2,000 fruit growers have learnt new ways to improve yield and income
2 AUGUST 2013 | BAGHLAN, AFGHANISTAN
Sayed Sakandar’s 70 apricot trees offer more than the promise of an abundant harvest. They symbolize the slow but steady success of attempts to persuade Afghan farmers that there are viable alternatives to opium poppies.
Nearly 2,000 farmers in four northern provinces of Afghanistan – Badakhshan, Baghlan, Kunduz, and Takhar – have made the switch to fruit orchards with the support of USAID’s Incentives Driving Economic Alternatives for the North, East and West (IDEA-NEW).
The project, which works throughout northeast Afghanistan to boost agricultural livelihoods by training farmers and improving linkages between farm and the market, has focused on fruit production in some districts. Thirty years of war destroyed most of Afghanistan’s more productive fruit orchards and when Afghan farmers returned to their lands from exile in Pakistan and other neighboring countries, they found that fruit trees and traditional crops were not as profitable as opium poppies.
The USAID project has been working to change that. In four districts of Baghlan province — Puli Khumri, Baghlan Jaded, Bano and Dehsallah — it helped farmers such as Sayed Sakandar to learn about weed control, fertilizer application and irrigation systems. Through a voucher system, each farmer was given high-quality certified saplings, a pair of secateurs, barbed wire and chemical fertilizer.
Sayed Sakandar says he is glad he made the shift towards growing fruit. “Some people advised me to start cultivating poppies again, but now I’ve been helped to establish a new orchard on my land,” he says as he dreams of planting more fruit trees. He initially planted just one jerib, a traditional unit of measurement roughly equivalent to half-an-acre, but now he plans another two orchards. It is converts like him that attest to the success of the initiative.
Last updated: January 20, 2015