New Horticultural System Improves Harvests in Balkh
As Afghanistan struggles to build a secure economic infrastructure after decades of war, producers of agricultural products are among those gaining traction. A program called the National Horticulture and Livestock Project (NHLP) has successfully promoted the adoption of improved production practices among farmers growing produce in the Balkh Province.

“We have built the capacity of local farmers to enable them to use the modern horticulture system even without our assistance in the future,” said Mohammad Ghaos Langary, NHLP provincial project coordinator in the Balkh Province. NHLP is supported by the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), which is financed by 34 donors and administered by the World Bank.

Agriculture is essential to the growth and prosperity of developing countries and is the main source of income for people in living in poverty worldwide. In Balkh Province, NHLP introduced a new horticultural trellis system to help solve the problem of insufficient space for vines and to improve harvests.

The new system factors in the local natural conditions, such as the type of soil, local area climate, regular irrigation system and other crucial conditions for agriculture. Under the new system, farmers are learning to use fertilizers, prune, weed and irrigate their orchards appropriately, which improves their harvests.

“For the first time, our grapevines have grown so well. It makes me very happy to see that our hard work is paying off,” said Allah Mohammad, a 45-year-old farmer who has worked in horticulture and agriculture for 20 years. “In the past, our vineyard was not producing higher and quality yield because of the traditional systems we would apply. Those problems are gone now, thanks to the new trellis system.”

NHLP has been operating in northern Balkh since 2008 and with the help of local farmers has turned around 1,290 hectares of land into orchards there. Besides grapevines, the orchards also grow various trees, such as apple, pomegranate, pear, cherry, almond, plum, and apricot. With the goals of increased production of horticultural products and improved animal production and health, NHLP currently has activities in 120 districts in 23 target provinces.

“With NHLP support, farmers can now easily sell their products in the market,” says Ahmad Fahim Jabbari, NHLP coordinator in northern Afghanistan. “Many farmers who were not interested in horticulture before are now applying to enroll for support so that they can modify their orchards based on the standards and guidelines provided by NHLP.”

Shengyu Wang

Sources: The World Bank, ResearchGate
Photo: borgenproject