Farm near Kabul, Afghanistan

Story Highlights:

  • “Pioneer” farmers in 300 villages in Kabul province are helping fellow farmers improve their horticultural practices and increase their income.
  • The National Horticulture and Livestock Project (NHLP) provides guidance and equipment to help farmers employ better technologies and practices.
  • With the help of pioneer farmers, extend NHLP’s reach by teaching other farmers, the project has reached a significant number of farmers across the country.

PAGHMAN DISTRICT, Kabul Province—Apple farmer Jafar (name changed), 55, believes that he is the best pioneer farmer in his area in Kabul province. As a pioneer farmer, he provides guidance to other farmers and has seen the improvements made in their farming.

“I help supervise other farmers in this area and I have seen great progress in their work,” says Jafar, who grows mainly apples on his 3-jerib (0.6-hectare) orchard. “They used to earn a minimum amount of profit, but now their benefits have increased like mine.”

Jafar was nominated by the local shura (council) of his village to be a pioneer farmer in 2013 under the National Horticulture and Livestock Project (NHLP), which works in more than 300 villages.

Each village nominates a pioneer farmer, who is chosen based on his good reputation in the community, long experience in agriculture, and level of education (high school graduates are preferred). The work of a pioneer farmer helps spread valuable information on horticulture that allows even more farmers to benefit from NHLP initiatives.

Jafar explains his work as a pioneer farmer: “I am in contact with NHLP technical experts  who come here [to the village] and teach me, and in turn, I teach other farmers what I have learned. Sometimes I organize other farmers to come to my orchard and we all receive training from NHLP.” The training covers topics such as irrigation methods, pesticide application, identification of plant diseases, branch pruning, and fruit harvesting among other topics.

"All the things that I currently know about horticulture, I owe to NHLP. I now know horticulture like a professional. I am very happy with NHLP for the work they have done for us. "
- farmer, Kabul province

Although a voluntary position, pioneer farmers receive 5,000 afghanis (about $66)* monthly to cover phone and transport costs incurred from receiving training from NHLP. After the years of training, Jafar is confident in his work and grateful for the changes it has made to his farming. “NHLP has helped me understand farming,” he says. “All the things that I currently know about horticulture, I owe to NHLP. I now know horticulture like a professional. I am very happy with NHLP for the work they have done for us.”

For Jafar and some 80 farmers in his village, NHLP assistance has led to notable results. “I have worked with NHLP for five years and each year, my yield and income have improved,” Jafar says. “The support has made a big difference.”

Last year (2018), Jafar saw his annual income double over the previous year. “I earned 330,000 afghanis [about $4,400], [while in the previous year] I earned 170,000 afghanis [about $2,300],” he says. “When NHLP first came to our village, I was earning just 50,000 afghanis [about $670] a year from my produce.”

NHLP is implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL) and receives funding support from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), managed by the World Bank on behalf of 34 donors. The project aims to promote the adoption of improved production and post-harvest practices and technologies by target farmers in the horticultural sector across the country. It covers 291 districts in Afghanistan’s 34 provinces and has reached over a significant number of farmers.

Access to Resources

Elsewhere in the district, Abdul-Satar (name changed) is working steadily on his orchard, pruning apple trees with a pair of recently acquired shears. The guidance of the pioneer farmer in his village, and other NHLP support have helped him double his annual income, too.

Abdul-Satar’s annual income in 2018 from his thriving orchard of 800 apple trees doubled over the previous year. “This year [2018], I earned 40,000 afghanis [about $530] from my orchard, while last year, I earned just 18,000 to 20,000 afghanis,” says Abdul-Satar, who plans to expand. “In the next 4–5 years, I expect to earn 1.6 million afghanis [about $21,000] from the whole orchard.”

Recently, NHLP technical experts advised him to prune his trees during winter months, and as he has been satisfied with the results of previous advice, Abdul-Satar has followed suit. “The field workers look for tree infections and give me more advice on how to deal with my trees, such as trimming branches and pest management,” Abdul-Satar says of the NHLP field workers who visit weekly. “I am very happy with the work and help that the NHLP supervisors and engineers provide our community and we are completely satisfied with the program.”

NHLP support is provided only to farmers who have their own land and the assistance is crucial to helping them become more efficient. With the tangible and financial support NHLP provides, Abdul-Satar and over 50 other farmers in his village have access to resources that they did not have previously to raise the productivity of their land and increase their incomes.

NHLP also provides pesticides and seeds free of charge, while other horticultural materials, such as pruning shears, fertilizers, saplings, ladders, and harvesting baskets are sold at a heavily subsidized price. According to the district coordinator, the project meets 75 percent of the cost of these items or agricultural works that it supports such as digging wells, while the farmer pays for the remaining 25 percent.

NHLP support continues over the project period and aims to help farmers reach the point where they can be self-sufficient. “If our tools get damaged or break, we can request NHLP to provide us with a replacement and they will help us,” Abdul-Satar says. “Moreover, the quality of resources that the project provides is very good.”

*All U.S. dollar equivalents are based on the exchange rate $1=75.09 afghanis (January 2019)