After three decades of war, the agricultural sector in Afghanistan, which is the main source of food and income for many in the country, requires creative and innovative thinking to support the agricultural economy and national development efforts. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), poor quality seed is one of the major hindrances in agricultural sustainability and improving poor livelihoods.
To address this challenge, ICARDA along with MAIL initiated the Community, Livestock, and Agriculture Project (CLAP) in 2014 to conduct research and provide quality seeds of cereals, vegetables and forage crops to farmers in Kabul, Parwan and Logar provinces. The project is being funded by IFAD for six years.
Under this project, ICARDA provided improved seeds of wheat to 45 farmers in Parwan province to establish demo-plots in their villages. With this improved quality of seed, the average yield of farmers has doubled on the demo-farms.
Mr. Ajab Gul, a project beneficiary farmer from Salih Chaikal village, Bagram district of Parwan province, for whom agriculture is the only source of income and livelihood, shared his story: ‘For many years I grew local seed varieties namely Safidak Watani, Kalak Zard Dand and Gaghor. But the yield from these varieties was low. Last year the average wheat yield of my field was less than 0.5 ton per jerib (less than 2.5 tons per hectare). I was very disappointed and had lost all hope. However, this year with the improved seed named Zagras provided by ICARDA, I have harvested 1.1 tons per jerib (5.5 tons per hectare) of wheat from my field. Along with the seed quality, the timely technical support from ICARDA staff were also very helpful.’
With much satisfaction Gul also mentioned that other farmers of nearby villages visited his fields and bought quality seed from him this year. This has not only improved his income but also his status in the community. He expressed appreciation to the ICARDA staff for giving him a scientific understanding of important aspects in crop varieties, like uniform spikes, strong stems to withstand strong winds, resistance to drought, pests and diseases.
Several field days were jointly organized by MAIL, DAIL (Directorate of Agriculture Irrigation and Livestock) and ICARDA for the farmers and extension workers to develop their capacity and enhance extension through ‘seeing is believing’ modules. These efforts and the experiences of demo-farmers like Ajab Gul have assured the farmers in this region of Afghanistan that challenges like the unavailability of quality seeds, lack of research facilities, insufficient extension services, inappropriate marketing systems and high prices of improved seeds can be resolved. Collaborative and integrated efforts by NARS, CGIAR centers and donor agencies can thus provide a sustainable way forward for farmers in Afghanistan.