January 2017—Potatoes are Afghanistan’s third most consumed crop, about 50 percent of which are imported from Pakistan. The potatoes are grown primarily in the highlands, which excludes the province of Jawzjan. Farmers there are interested in growing potatoes, but they’re unwilling to experiment, in part because they believe that potatoes need a lot of water, something in short supply in Jawzjan, where average annual rainfall is only 9 inches.
Abdul Jalil is a farmer from Dasht-e-Yateem Qala village, Jawzjan, who wanted to grow potatoes because a friend from Wardak, a potato-producing province, told him he could make good money on the crop. Potatoes are considered a cash crop in Afghanistan and market prices are good, comparable to tomatoes and cucumbers, but potatoes are less perishable.
Jalil reached out to an agriculture extension worker, Baba Nasar, for help in February 2016. The local Directorate for Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock then obtained technical and financial support from USAID to establish a demonstration plot on Jalil’s land.
Jalil and other local farmers tested three varieties of potatoes for adaptability and yield potential, using no more irrigation water than would be used for any other vegetable.
At the end of the season, Nazar helped the farmers harvest the potatoes and measure yield. An Indian variety of potato, Kufri Chandramukhi, showed the most promising results. The farmers determined that if Jalil only planted Kufri Chandramukhi potatoes on his jerib of land, he could make about $2,000 in the retail market per season.
“Agriculture engineers from the extension department of Sheberghan Directorate of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock taught us how to cultivate potato, irrigate the land, and apply urea and animal manure fertilizer,” says Jalil. “Then I applied what I learned. Now I got unexpected increased yield from potato .... Thanks to USAID and the extension engineers who helped us to grow potatoes in Jawzjan.”
Jalil and the other farmer field school members expressed hope that other farmers would realize the potential of potatoes. During a Jawzjan National TV interview, Jalil gave viewers his address and told them to come visit his demonstration plot.
USAID supported the potato demonstration through the Afghanistan Agriculture Extension Project II, which works to improve rural household food security, income and nutrition and enhance support for women in the agricultural sector. The project, which runs from 2014 to 2017, has provided agricultural training for more than 14,000 people (23 percent of whom are women), and has established 430 farmer field schools and 2,070 field demonstrations where farmers have adopted new and improved agricultural management practices on 150 acres of land.
Last updated: January 30, 2017