KABUL CITY – Wahidullah Yousofi, head of the Agro-meteorological Department at the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL), is busy reviewing and saving information that he has obtained from agro-meteorological stations around the country. “We try to record weather information in the different provinces and inform farmers about weather conditions and the irrigation needs for their crops,” he says.
MAIL’s 108 agro-meteorological stations operate in all 34 provinces of the country to provide information essential for determining the irrigation needs of each province’s crops in the different seasons. “Agro-meteorological stations are installed in many countries around the world to enhance crops and improve production,” says Yousofi.
“The agro-meteorological stations provide us with 12 distinct parameters,” he explains. “If we are properly informed about each of these parameters, they can lead to significant improvements in the crops.” The 12 parameters, which include solar radiation, sunshine hours, air temperature, dew point, atmospheric pressure, soil moisture, and rainfall, are among the most important for agriculture. The climatic data contribute to determining the exact water requirement of specific crops, helping farmers to irrigate more efficiently and effectively. This could significantly contribute to improving agricultural conditions in Afghanistan.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) initially installed 46 agro-meteorological stations for MAIL in 2004. Then gradually until 2006, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) took charge of the agro-meteorological stations from FAO and increased their number to 103.
Five more stations were installed by MAIL in October 2015, with support from the On-Farm Water Management Project (OFWMP). The five automated agro-meteorological stations were installed under contract with an American company in Kabul, Herat, Nangarhar, Bamyan, and Samangan Provinces.
With a $25 million grant from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), OFWMP aims to support on-farm water management investments in five regions—Kabul, Baghlan, Herat, Nangarhar, and Balkh Provinces, covering a total of 19,000 hectares. OFWMP works to improve agricultural productivity in project areas by enhancing the efficiency of water use.
In total, only 9 of the 108 agro-meteorological stations are operated automatically. In the manually operated stations, an expert is needed to obtain information from the system and send it to MAIL headquarters in Kabul. It is not problem-free though. “Misreading information by the person in charge is a common problem,” says Yousofi. Moreover, the manual process in comparison to the automated one takes a longer time to relay information.
The automated stations are connected to satellites and automatically relay the recorded information through Internet to the administrator’s website on an hourly basis. Any user with an account on the website can access the updated information.