BAMYAN CITY, Bamyan Province – On a neat patch of land enclosed by a chain-link fence just outside of Bamyan city center, Aminullah, 52, and his three employees are busy tending to his crops.
Although the farm in Sar Asyab village is just 2 jeribs (0.4 hectares), it keeps the four men busy because of its adoption of high-density planting. Amin grows a variety of flowering and root vegetables, such as cabbage, lettuce, cucumber, and white radish, between his 450 apple trees.
Today, Amin is teaching his workers how to spray the apple trees to protect them against disease, a technique he learned from National Horticulture and Livestock Project (NHLP) staff, who taught him the techniques of high-density planting as well provided the necessary medicine to spray the trees.
More importantly, high-density farming shows farmers without much land that they also can make a living from farming, contrary to the common belief that successful farming is land intensive.
Amin is among the thousands farmers in Bamyan Province benefiting from high-density farming with NHLP support. “The high-density orchards have been 100 per cent successful because it has good results,” says Amin, who adopted the new technique in 2015. His income has doubled from his previous income generated by cultivating apples alone. “Now I can profit from both the ‘upper and lower levels’ of my farmland,” Amin says. He expects to see a further rise in his income in the next two years. “It has been three years since I began high-density farming with NHLP help and in two more years, my [annual] income will quadruple to 250,000–300,000 afghanis (about $3,300–3,900)*,” he says.
Amin’s high-density farm was set up on an NHLP budget of 60,000 afghanis ($790). The NHLP high-density farming program does not give participants funds, but instead supplies them with various plants, tree saplings, and supplies, such as pesticides, to start and upkeep their high-density farms.
NHLP staff provide constant guidance to farmers under the program. “NHLP staff is always available to offer advice on how to care for our plants,” says Amin. “They have also given us a book about plant diseases and farming techniques for high-density planting, such as how to irrigate multiple layers of plants, so that we have the information at hand.”
NHLP is implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) and aims to increase productivity and production of horticultural products. It is supported by a $190 million grant from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), administered by the World Bank on behalf of 34 donors.
In addition to high-density planting, NHLP has also introduced drip irrigation, disease resistant seeds, and modern disease and pest control methods to farmers across Afghanistan, which have helped strengthen their means of livelihood.