Bearing Fruit: Japan and UNDP Boost Output for Northern Farmers

Farmers in Takhar boost output and sales with new training and infrastructure

Takhar pomegranate farmer, Abdul Hai, doubled his crop yield and his income in just one year with support from UNDP and the Government of Japan. UNDP Afghanistan/ Roshan Safi/ 2016

16 January 2017, Takhar – Some provinces in Afghanistan are famous for their fruit. In Kandahar, it’s the pomegranates; in Parwan, the grapes.

Now Takhar is earning its own place on these lists, with superb pomegranates and nashpati pears – thanks to support from UNDP that has allowed local farmers to boost the quality and size of harvests and encouraged cross-border trade.

Abdul Hai, a 48-year-old farmer from Takhar’s Yangi Qala district made US$6,500 from his pomegranates this year alone.

“From one hectare of land, I harvested 5,600kg of pomegranates,” he says. “Last year, I only got about 3,000.”

Highlights

  • 70% of Afghans live in rural areas, and farming provides up to 33% of total GDP every year.
  • UNDP is helping farmers in the northeast grow better crops and get access to new markets.
  • Takhar pomegranate farmer, Abdul Hai, doubled his crop yield and his income in just one year.
  • Now he and his neighbours are expanding their fields.

This is welcome news after decades of difficulty. Most people in Yangi Qala are farmers, but productivity has always remained flat because of crop-eating pests and limited access to modern equipment and techniques.

It’s the same story across Afghanistan, where 70% of the population live in rural areas and most of them depend on farming for a living. Years of conflict have destroyed roads, markets and irrigation systems, while underinvestment has hindered the spread of new techniques and technologies.

“We have worked this land all our lives,” explains Abdul Hai, “But our knowledge has always been limited to what happens in our own province. We never learned how to control pests and increase our harvests. Even with my three sons working on our land, we never made enough money.”

UNDP has trained Abdul Hai and 29 of his neighbours on pest control, pruning and irrigation; we’ve held classes on how packaging can make products more attractive to customers; and we’ve built roads connecting the area to nearby markets.

To boost trade even further, we’ve organized exhibitions of Takhar’s produce in other provinces and in Tajikistan.

The total result is expanded production and new customers for the increased output. And since agriculture contributes up to 33% of Afghanistan’s GDP every year, this is good news not just for Takhari farmers but for the economy as a whole.

Now Abdul Hai plans to extend his field,s and he expects to see other local famers do the same.

“It’s like a dream come true to see such a dramatic increase in our harvests,” he says. “Everyone is smiling now.”

Since 2014, UNDP’s Livelihood Improvement in Tajiki-Afghan Cross-border Areas (LITACA) project has built infrastructure that provides access for more than 900 farmers to markets, protects or irrigates nearly 15,000 hectares of agriculture land and connects 138 villages to district centers, health facilities, main roads and schools.

Over the same period, through the One Village One Product initiative, more than 150 people (45% women) have been trained in business development and how to produce local fruits and handicrafts. These products have also been exhibited in trade fairs around Afghanistan and across the border.

The project is made possible with generous funding from the Government of Japan.