Afghan farmers in the remote areas of the western Farah province face multiple and severe challenges to their livelihood. Frequent droughts and a lack of proper irrigation systems, along with the controlling presence of the Taliban, mean that opium poppy cultivation is often the most viable option for farmers to earn a basic income. Agriculturally, poppy cultivation is highly detrimental; it deprives the land of essential nutrients, rendering it less fertile, and in need of extra fertilizers when farmers cultivate land for the next harvest. The illicit crop can also have corrosive social consequences. These are ongoing problems for many agriculturally dependent regions in Afghanistan.
With the objective of eradicating poppy cultivation, and introducing farmers to higher value crops, UNDP and the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) through the Community-Based Agriculture and Rural Development (CBARD) project has installed 72 commercial and 44 micro greenhouses for male and female farmers who were former poppy growers of the Posht-e-Rod district, Farah province. This means that more than three hectares of land in the district are now covered by sustainable greenhouses.
Local farmers in the Farah, Nangarhar and Badghis provinces do not have the technical training or the financial capacity to build their own greenhouses. In these provinces, poppy-cultivating villages are remote, and the majority are under the control of the Taliban. Despite these logistical obstacles and security challenges, CBARD continues its development work, and installs high quality greenhouses on 300 sqm and 400 sqm pieces of land. The CBARD project team use their local knowledge to engage local council members and community elders, enabling them to reach project beneficiaries and carry out successful interventions, also building community trust.
Ihsamuddin, Mohammad Omar and Naqibullah are three farmers in the Qala Mula Aman and Barangtot villages in Posht-e-Rod district who have benefitted enormously from the CBARD project. CBARD built a commercial greenhouse for each farmer, which has enabled them to cultivate cucumbers and tomatoes, with two to three harvests every year. This means a year-on-year harvest of approximately 4,000-5,000 kilograms of produce. All from one single greenhouse.
These farmers would not have found the necessary finance and resource to build a 400 sqm greenhouse prior to CBARD’s intervention, but with the income from the CBARD greenhouses, and some support from friends and family, each of the three farmers has been able to build themselves an additional greenhouse.
“In the past, our earnings from poppy would be very limited and we could hardly cover our daily expenses. However, with the CBARD greenhouse, I earned enough profits so that with some help from my acquaintances, I have built an additional greenhouse which will increase my profits even further.” said Ihsamuddin.
All CBARD’s interventions strive to be sustainable in both design and construction. Commercial and micro-greenhouses are no exception, with the first stage of sustainability being reached when a farmer is able to procure seeds and other essentials, and cultivate the greenhouse season after season, reaping both an abundant harvest and financial benefits. Most of CBARD’s commercial and micro-greenhouses have reached this stage of sustainability but now, a second stage of sustainability has begun, when farmers are able to build additional greenhouses having earned enough profit from their CBARD built greenhouses.
This is a huge step towards increasing economic prosperity for Afghan farmers and long-term sustainability of CBARD’s interventions. As the new greenhouses are already reaping their first harvest, the farmers are anticipating an individual, additional income of 40 to 50 thousand Afghanis.
All three farmers have expressed their gratitude to the CBARD project, which has fostered a profitable personal business for each one of them, and also dramatically increased their incomes. They are now earning a much greater profit in comparison to that earned by poppy cultivation, and for far less arduous labor.
Thanks to the generous funding from the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), since its inception in 2018 the Community Based Agriculture and Rural Development (CBARD) project has constructed more than 1,125 commercial (301 & 404 sqm) and micro (60 sqm) greenhouses for former opium poppy growers in 12 districts of the Farah, Badghis and Nangarhar provinces.
Along with this, the project has planted more than 1,121 hectares of fruit orchards for more than 4,100 beneficiaries in the aforementioned provinces. The orchards produce many diverse fruits such as apples, pomegranates, grapes, sweet oranges, lemons, peaches, plums, pears, walnuts and persimmons.
The project also constructs cool storages for fruits and raisin houses for grape farmers, as well as constructs and rebuilds irrigation and water management structures like irrigation canals, protection walls, water dividers, siphons, water intakes etc. These structures have prevented loss of vital agricultural land to floods and water wastage, and transformed hundreds of hectares of land in target districts which were left barren due to an absence of efficient water distribution systems, and insufficient water for irrigation.