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FEATURE STORY July 9, 2017

New Horticultural Methods Improve Rural Livelihoods in Difficult Terrains


STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Farmers in the mountainous Nili district of Daykundi Province are replacing traditional varieties of almond trees with new varieties, which are disease resistant, higher yielding, and command better prices in the market.
  • The improvement in productivity and livelihood of the farmers is a result of a project under the National Horticulture and Livestock Project (NHLP), which has been met with enthusiasm from the local villagers.
  • Nationally, NHLP activities are being implemented in 300 districts in 31 provinces.

"NHLP introduced a new system of horticulture in our village to help us earn a better income."
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Ewaz Ali
farmer, Kharjal village, Daykundi Province


NILI DISTRICT, Daykundi Province – A farm worker uses a pick to soften the earth around the almond trees as Ewaz Ali waters the trees with a hose attached to a nearby solar-powered water pump. This new plot of almond trees is planted in a systematic and orderly grid. It is autumn and the villagers are busy working their land, harvesting wheat and other crops, and irrigating the land.

Horticulture is the main source of income for more than 125 households in Kharjal village, where Ewaz Ali, 30, lives. He harvests crops on his land to support the 12 members of his family. In December 2015, he established four new jeribs, or 0.8 hectare, of almond orchard and half a jerib of apricot orchard with help of the National Horticulture and Livestock Project (NHLP).

“NHLP introduced a new system of horticulture in our village to help us earn a better income,” Ewaz Ali says. “These are new varieties of almonds that we did not have in the past.” The new varieties sell for 400 afghanis per kilo (about $6), more than two and a half times the price of the traditional varieties of almonds that have grown here for generations. In addition to the higher prices, the new varieties are more disease resistant than the traditional ones.

NHLP operates under the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL). With a $190 million grant support from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), NHLP is working toward the overarching goal of increased productivity and overall production of horticultural products. It began national activities in April 2013 and its work will run through the end of 2020.

The project aims to promote adoption of improved production practices by target farmers, with gradual rollout of farmer-centric agricultural services, systems, and investment support across the country. Its activities are currently implemented in 300 districts in 31 target provinces, numbers that may grow as conditions warrant. NHLP activities have three components: horticultural production, animal production and health, and implementation management and technical assistance.

NHLP began its work in Daykundi Province in 2014 and currently covers six of the province’s eight districts, with plans to expand into all by the end of 2017. The project has established more than 1,400 jeribs, or 280 hectares, of new orchards in the province, growing almonds, apricots, grapes, and apples, while construction is underway on 18 rain water reservoirs to improve irrigation.


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National Horticulture and Livestock Project has helped farmers use new methods and horticultural systems to earn a larger income from the same land they have been farming for generations, making farming and horticulture a more viable livelihood option in Daykundi province.

Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank

Interest in New Horticultural Systems

“I know people who completely replaced their traditional gardens with the new varieties of almonds introduced by NHLP,” says Ali Khan Amiri, a farmer who is the NHLP local liaison in Kharjal village. In the new systems introduced by NHLP, trees are planted three to four meters apart and farmers are able to use plots both for cultivating seeds and growing plants. “The new varieties grow faster. They are also resistant to disease. When people see this, they establish gardens and orchards using these new systems,” Ali Khan says.

Every month, NHLP holds a one-day horticulture training session in which farmers are trained on season-appropriate techniques of gardening, crop trimming, harvesting, and other practices. In addition to the technical skills taught, the trainings are an opportunity for local farmers to come together, discuss best practices, and share their experiences.

Prior to NHLP’s activities in Daykundi, farmers say they didn’t have a reason to come together and discuss their farming. The trainings and NHLP’s other activities in the province have resulted in an enthusiasm to adopt the new methods. “I have received more than 100 applications from Kharjal’s villagers for establishing new varieties of almonds for the coming year,” says Ali Khan.

Viable Livelihood Option

More than 70 percent of Daykundi’s population earn their income as farmers, the majority from growing crops. “People’s needs and expectations are getting higher every year,” says Ewaz Ali. “Because the income of families from traditional gardens has been low and they have not seen any other options, they have left the village in favor of big cities or even gone abroad to have a better life.”

This situation, however, is changing. NHLP has helped people use new methods and horticultural systems to earn a larger income from the same land they have been farming for generations, making farming and horticulture a more viable livelihood option in the province, according to Mohammad Hasan Ibrahimi, the NHLP provincial coordinator for Daykundi.

NHLP operates on the philosophy that when farmers are invested in the project, they will take good care of what they have planted. In the first year of a partnership, NHLP funds 75 percent of the budget and farmers pay the remaining 25 percent; in the second year, NHLP and the farmers share the costs equally. “NHLP is trying to build the capacity of farmers, so that if one day there is no longer funding, farmers can continue their work and solve their own problems,” says Mohammad Hasan Ibrahimi. “We help people fulfill their needs by working their lands in new ways.”



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