The trellis system improves the growth of the grapes, and is particularly useful in cases where there is insufficient space for the vines. Farmer Allah Mohammad, 45, with 20 years of experience in horticulture and agriculture, says: “For the first time, our grapevines have grown so well. It makes me very happy to see that our hard work is paying off. In the past, our vineyard was not producing higher and quality yield; because of the traditional systems we would apply. Those problems are gone now, thanks to the new trellis system.”
The trellis system is part of a series of improved production methods introduced by the National Horticulture and Livestock Project (NHLP), implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock with a $100 million grant support from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF).
NHLP contributes to the overarching goal of increased productivity and overall production of horticultural products, and improved animal production and health. NHLP activities are currently implemented in 120 districts in 23 target provinces, numbers that may grow as conditions warrant.
Orchards and vineyards established or supported by the NHLP across the country use a modern production methods. The new system tailors the establishment of orchards based on the type of soil, local area climate, regular irrigation system and other essential conditions for agriculture. Under the new system, farmers are learning to use fertilizers, prune, weed and irrigate their orchards at the right time, resulting in better harvests.
With the help of local farmers, NHLP has turned about 1,290 hectares of land into orchards in northern Afghanistan. In addition to grapevines, the orchards grow a variety of trees including apple, pomegranate, pear, cherry, almond, plum, and apricot. NHLP has been operating in northern Balkh since 2008. Over 200 hectares of the orchards are located in Balkh Province.
Ahmad Fahim Jabbari, NHLP coordinator in northern Afghanistan says: “This project has brought vital and fundamental changes in horticulture sub-sector in Balkh Province.”
“With NHLP support, farmers can now easily sell their products in the market,” he says. “Many farmers who were not interested in horticulture before are now applying to enroll for support so that they can modify their orchards based on the standards and guidelines provided by NHLP.”
NHLP provides training on the improved pre and postharvest methods for the key horticultural crops to farmers upon request. Mohammad Ghaos Langary, NHLP provincial project coordinator of horticultural activities in Balkh Province says: “We have trained the farmers in horticulture as well as marketing. We have built the capacity of local farmers to enable them to use the modern horticulture system even without NHLP’s assistance in the future.”
The improved methods have enabled farmers to improve the quality and quantity of their crops to the extent that some are able to export their pomegranates with the help NHLP offers in packing and shipping them out of the country.
One of the biggest achievements of NHLP support, however, is the monthly gathering of participating farmers whereby they share their successes and failures, enabling them to learn from each other.