MERAK BELA VILLAGE, Nangarhar Province - Livestock farmer Jan Agha says he owes his water buffalo an apology. Laughing loudly Agha explains that he is only half-joking, because until recently he hadn’t realized that his animals needed better medical care and feeding.
“It is both too funny and too sad to now think of the things that we did,” says Agha, 41. “But we didn’t know what was wrong then. Now we are learning better ways to feed, protect and clean our animals, and they are so happy. We are getting richer, too.”
After years of livestock tending, Agha says the transformation happened when he started attending a Farmer Field School in his village of Merak Bela in Behsood district of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. The classes, offered twice a month in the village, are a key component of the National Horticulture and Livestock Project (NHLP), a Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock initiative with support from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). The project’s objective is to assist producers in adopting improved livestock practices to increase their productivity.
Agha says the project is not only helping his animals, but also putting more money in his pocket. The father of 11 children says his income has tripled now because of the project. “Before, our cows were producing maybe 3.5 liters of milk per day and now it can be 10.5 liters.”
Schools result in immediate benefits
In Agha’s village, which sprawls along the banks of the Kabul River across from Jalalabad, the NHLP project started in January 2013. NHLP officials approached Agha’s community with a plan, if farmers were interested, to host FFS classes twice a month at a time and place of their choice.
In recent months roughly 30 groups of farmers have formed (10 of men, and 20 of women who primarily manage poultry) for FFS classes to be delivered to them in Nangarhar province, says Gul Mohammad, the NHLP’s regional livestock extension officer. “To date, I would say the classes have been very, very popular,” says Mohammad. “We are only hearing good things from farmers.”