Forest Preservation at a Remote Area in Badakhshan Province Generates Rural Livelihoods
A forest that blankets a mountain along the Kishim River in Tagab district of northeastern Badakhshan province and where wild animals, rare plants and a variety of natural fruit trees inhabit has been preserved. Behind this success is Rural Green Environment Organization (RGEO), which, as a result, has been able to generate livelihood opportunities for rural communities dwelling near the forest. This organization has been engaged in protecting the natural resources in the area since 2002.
In mid-2012, this organization’s work entered a new phase when the United Nations Development Programme and Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme awarded them a grant of US$ 50,000 to protect the 20 square-kilometre forest and boost the income generation potential of the site. With the grant, the organization built a nearly 500-metre fence made with concrete and metal to safeguard the forest from livestock that used to harm the natural trees.
Other works the grant funded constitute planting 4,000 saplings of fig, pomegranate, apple, pear and walnut; building 15 water reservoirs each with capacity of 12 cubic metres to irrigate the newly planted trees; and providing daily work for 20 local residents each receiving an average of US$ 8 for a twelve-month period of work.
- With US$ 50,000 grant 20 square-kilometres of forest has been protected in Tagab district of Badakhshan that will potentially boost the income generation potential of the site.
- “We have been working here to make sure that the nature of this area is not destroyed brutally and show to other people across the country that, if you put honest efforts, you can change a dry land into a green one,” says Sultan Muhammad Awrang, the RGEO Project Coordinator in Badakhshan.
- Last year, more than 1,000 families living in the three adjacent villages of Farman Quli, Karas Deh and Wawooch collected pistachios and sold them in district and provincial markets, each earning a decent income.
- The new 4,000 fruit trees and the rehabilitated pistachio trees will narrow the chances of landslide and decrease frequency and intensity of floods that destroyed farmland downhill.
- “We’re hopeful that in the near future, our fruit will reach district and provincial markets. This will even extend prosperity to our next generations," says Mr. Hafizullah Hafiz, a resident of Farmn Quli Village of Tagab district.
“We have been working here to make sure that the nature of this area is not destroyed brutally and show to other people across the country that, if you put honest efforts, you can change a dry land into a green one,” says Sultan Muhammad Awrang, the RGEO Project Coordinator in Badakshan. “If we continue to work together with the supportive people of the area with some donor aid, people’s livelihoods will improve.” A Farman Quli village elder Sayed Fakhruddin acknowledges the project’s benefits to their area saying, “The project helped increase greenery and preserve our environment.”
Thanks to this project, thousands of natural pistachio trees in the forest that were previously destroyed by grazing animals, such as sheep and goats, from the neighboring communities and cut for firewood by the villagers have now been shielded. Since then, the trees have grown and now bear fruit. In the last harvest season, more than 1,000 families living in the three adjacent villages of Farman Quli, Karas Deh and Wawooch collected pistachios and sold them in district and provincial markets, each earning a decent income.
In the protected forest, the communities with help from rural organization have been able to graft 8,000 natural vines—also called “Dewtaks”— with 16 productive varieties. This year, each vine produced 7Kg of grapes. In the years to come, the production will double and triple.
The 4,000 fruit trees, planted on the mountainside in 2012 and the rehabilitated pistachio trees will be able to sustain watershed as they will retain snow moving down from the brow and shoulders of the mountain. With this, the chances of landslide in the area will narrow and the frequency and intensity of floods that destroyed farmland downhill will also decline. The trees have already started to bear fruit, enabling the area people in the next few years to harvest fruit and supply them to the district and provincial markets.
Thousands of the pistachio trees, new fruit trees and grafted vines have been fairly distributed among the 1,000 families living in the three villages by the Village Councils or “Shuras” so as to make sure people do not conflict over these forest resources. In the next five years, this will become one of the most beautiful places in Afghanistan and the area’s economy will grow since it will provide work and livelihood opportunities to people, Mr. Awrang hopes.
There are good chances that the production of fruit will increase in this area and gain ground in the market. “Our fruit production will extraordinarily boost and people who now go to Iran for work will stay here,” says Mr. Hafizullah Hafiz, a resident of Farmn Quli Village, “We’re hopeful that in the near future, our fruit will reach district and provincial markets. This will even extend prosperity to our next generations.”
Employment opportunities are scarce across Badakshan province. From these villages alone, tens of young people have left their homes for Iran for work, most crossing the border illegally. “These young people encounter numerous challenges along the way—they get killed by border guards or robbers, imprisoned and, even after making it to Iran, they’re engaged in very tough labour,” says Mr. Awrang “Some even get addicted to drugs as they can hardly find work.”
The emerging livelihood opportunities in the area as a result of increased fruit production in the protected forest will ensure jobs for such desperate young people. “And families won’t necessarily send their youth to Iran and elsewhere for work to bring home money; there will be money at home,” says Mr. Awrang as he nods.