Opium poppy cultivation is a double-edged sword for farmers in Afghanistan. The crop is highly labour-intensive, linked to criminal enterprises, corruption, and can have corrosive social consequences. But with few alternative options, some local farmers depend on it for their livelihood.
More than 88,000 people live in Qadis, Badghis province, an important agricultural district where the majority of the population make a living from agriculture. Although the opium poppy is widely cultivated, melon and pistachio are also major crops.
Aiming to eradicate poppy cultivation and promote more traditional, non-illicit, and high-value crops in Qadis, UNDP and Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) through its Community-Based Agriculture and Rural Development (CBARD) project has installed 73 commercial (404 sqm) and 44 micro (60 sqm) greenhouses for male and female farmers in the district.
In 2018, Mohammad Asif from Gunbad-Klora village and Bibi Sahib Jan of Darband-e-Safid village, were among the local farmers who were introduced to the CBARD project by the local Community Development Councils (CDC) in coordination with the District Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Department. Both undertook comprehensive training in greenhouse management, business development, weed and pest control, as well as participating in agricultural exhibitions. The farmers were also provided with additional greenhouse management toolkits.
Mohammad Asif, 31, grew poppy because he was unable to sufficiently irrigate his land. His daughter and two sons would help with harversting the crop. Of his 4.6 hectares of land (3 hectares of it rain-irrigated), 3.4 hectares would be cultivated for poppy, bringing Asif a yearly income of less than 80,000 AFN. Almost half of his income would be reinvested in chemical fertilizers, labor and other associated costs, turning very little real profit.
Now, with the 404 sqm greenhouse built for him by CBARD, Mohammad Asif has sold more than 6.5 tons of cucumbers in the first half of the year and earned over 110,000 AFN. His income is more than double what it used to be, accounting for factors such as the area of land covered, labour intensity, and time expended in cultivating opium poppy. His children are also able to regularly attend school.
“Before the greenhouse, my children would miss school as they would be working with me at the time of poppy harvest. Now I can manage the greenhouse myself and they can focus on their studies.” said Asif.
CBARD has focused extensively on women’s empowerment in these remote areas of Afghanistan. One particularly inspiring example is Bibi Sahib Jan, a mother of three sons and two daughters, who received a 60 sqm greenhouse from the project.
This year, she has harvested more than 1100 kilograms of cucumbers; this abundant yield has not only enhanced her ability to meet the family’s food requirements, but has also earned her over 18,000 AFN. Bibi Sahib Jan is now contributing to the family income, and she no longer requires her children’s help with crop harvesting.
Multiple interventions have been undertaken by CBARD since the project’s initiation, including the construction of protective walls, water reservoirs, water dividers and siphons. CBARD has also planted orchards, built raisin houses, and constructed commercial and micro greenhouses. This has contributed to a considerable decline in poppy cultivation in the Qadis district.
Farmers are now motivated to build their own greenhouses and can earn a greater income from less land, in comparison to previously cultivated crops. With access to external (national and international) markets, and a more professional mix of packaging and marketing, their products can earn much higher profits. CBARD is helping these struggling farmers to increase their economic self-sufficiency, build resilience, earn better incomes and grow stronger and stronger.
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 1000 commercial (301 & 404 sqm) and micro (60 sqm) greenhouses for former opium poppy growers in 12 districts of Farah, Badghis and Nangarhar provinces.
This brings more than 22 hectares of land under greenhouses coverage in the target provinces. Along with this, the project has planted more than 1040 hectares of fruit orchards for a total of 4169 beneficiaries in the mentioned provinces. The orchards produce fruits like Apples, Pomegranate, Grape, Sweet Orange, Lemon, Peach, Plum, Pear, Walnut, Persimmon, etc.
The project is also working on constructing cool storages, raisin houses for grape farmers as well as constructing and rebuilding irrigation and water management structures like irrigation canals, protection walls, water dividers, siphons, water intakes, etc. which have prevented the loss of agricultural land to floods and water wastage transforming hundreds of hectares of land in target districts which were left barren due to lack of proper water distribution systems or not having enough water for irrigation.