Former Afghan Poppy Farmer Becomes Self-Employed Mechanic

Mohammad Salim in his mechanical workshop
Mohammad Salim in his mechanical workshop
Vocational training opens up lawful livelihoods
“There are no fears from the government since I am running a licit business now.”

December 2015—Like many traditional Afghan farmers in the Panjwayi district of Kandahar province, Mohammad Salim once grew poppies to support his family.

“The government eradication campaigns destroyed our poppy fields many times. Cultivating poppy was too risky,” he said.

In addition to government poppy eradication, alternative development programs and influential local leaders have encouraged farmers to cultivate licit crops. Because poppies require much less water than other crops, they are cheaper and easier to grow. But through the various efforts to halt propagation, farmers have learned that poppy cultivation finances insurgents and increases instability in their district.

USAID’s Kandahar Food Zone Program helps to reduce the cultivation of poppy and provide farmers with licit income by providing vocational training to increase job opportunities.

Salim was one of 150 farmers who attended a vocational training in mechanical maintenance in November 2014. The program also provided each farmer a set of mechanical equipment, including a cylinder liner puller, feeler gauge, grease gun, hydraulic jack, nuts driver set, pliers, sledgehammer and spanner set.

After three months of training, Salim established a small mechanical workshop in the district and now earns enough to support his family. His younger brother and son are also working with him to repair machinery.

“Previously, Panjwayi farmers were using costly mechanics to fix their machinery and it took them several days to send and repair it in Kandahar city,” says Salim. “But now most of the farmers have water pumps and generators repaired in my workshop.”

Kandahar Food Zone’s mechanical maintenance projects are filling the local skill gaps and creating job opportunities while encouraging cultivation of licit crops.

“There are no fears from the government since I am running a licit business now,” adds Salim.

Kandahar Food Zone intervention programs are designed to strengthen and diversify legal rural livelihoods in targeted districts by identifying and addressing the root causes of instability that lead to opium poppy cultivation. More than 800 people have benefited from alternative livelihood activities of the three-year, $27.7 million program, which began in July 2013. 


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Last updated: May 07, 2019

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