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Rural Development Innovations for EU-Afghanistan Brussels Conference, Oct 4-5

Oct 04,2016

A range of drylands innovations is ripe for scaling-up – to boost nutrition security and income for rural populations in Afghanistan
A range of drylands rural development innovations is ripe for scaling-up – to boost nutrition security and income for rural populations   
 
The EU-Afghanistan Conference kicks off today in Brussels. At this summit meeting, representatives of 70 countries and 20 international organizations are working with Afghan leadership to chart the development framework for the country’s future. Key factors to ensure peace and stability for the country include measures to boost economic growth, regional trade, and rural development – especially creating new long-term income streams for Afghan women and youth
 
Agricultural innovation can play a central role in making this happen. A range of approaches and technologies – that have been field tested across Afghanistan – are ripe for scaling-up. 
 
These are the results of almost a two-decade partnership between ICARDA and the government of Afghanistan. They have brought to Afghani communities: higher performing crop varieties, improved practices for managing land and water, the foundations of a vegetable and livestock production sector, and local enterprise and income opportunities for rural women. 
 
These programs have helped develop the national agriculture sector and rebuild Afghanistan’s agricultural genetic diversity that was lost during the country’s conflict years. 
 
 
Building production and livelihoods systems
The Afghan-ICARDA program proposes a livelihoods development approach that fits well with the planned EU-Afghanistan National Priority Programs (NPP) 2017-2021. These are a public-private partnership for national seed certification; improved food, vegetable and fodder crops; creation of dairy goat rural enterprises; watershed management; and improved forage crops. If well-integrated into a national strategy and livelihoods system this sectors will be a solid foundation for the future of dryland rural development in the country. 
 
Opportunities for women: income and small enterprise 
ICARDA, working with local partners has trained some 6500 women in the areas of small enterprise development, kitchen gardening , farming practices, sheep and goat production, and quality seed multiplication. The ‘pass on the gift’ scheme of goat rearing brings income directly to women, and has the unique potential to inject income in remote rural communities.
 
Rural development and agricultural value chains
The partnership has pilot tested and put into action a number of agricultural value chains. These include greenhouse production of off season and high yielding vegetable crops, local production by women of herb oils for high-value domestic and export markets, livestock production for meat, dairy products – for household food security and sale in local markets.
 
Agricultural mechanization is a key to increasing production and income. But it will only succeed if supported by local markets and services that produce, market and repair machines and tools (seeders, threshers, plows, etc.). To support the government in creating an Afghan private sector for mechanization, ICARDA runs specialized technical training and encourages the exchange of know-how. Participants travel to India to learn first-hand from their counterparts how these markets and services function.
 
Seed certification for agricultural markets and export
The creation of Village-based Seed Enterprises (VBSEs) are an important achievement of the Afghan government over the past five years, a process that was supported by ICARDA and FAO, who provided mentoring, training and technical back-stopping for the creation of some 135 enterprises. Three of these have become viable commercial enterprises. Three are 100% women-owned and four others have women as partners. These informal local enterprises form a national network that provides 90% of Afghanistan’s wheat seed supply.
 
Building capacity of young professionals, Ministry, district officials, NGOs, extension services
ICARDA supports the national rural development plan with capacity building and know-how transfer at several levels. Senior and mid-level Ministerial staff are mentored in study visits where they participate in dialogues on professional and policy development with their counterparts in India. Ministers, Provincial managers, technical staff, and the Director of Youth and Extension are involved in similar exchanges. A total of 7500 technical and operational staff in agricultural line agencies and farmers have been trained by ICARDA in farming policies and practices – 2500 of these have been government staff.
 
The partnership has been supported over the past two decades by the European Union, Australia, USAID, IFAD, OFID, JICA (Japan), UKAID, The Netherlands, IDRC (Canada) and FAO.