News: Trees and seeds: Agricultural programs take root in Zabul province
KABUL, Afghanistan - Coalition forces and local village elders distributed bags of almond trees to local Afghan citizens in Sinan village in Zabul province, March 13, as part of a ‘tree and seed’ program.
The initiative is part of a larger agricultural program being administered throughout southeastern Afghanistan sponsored by provincial government officials and coordinated by U.S. Special Operations civil affairs teams. The program provides education and other agricultural resources for local farmers.
Over the last seven months, 75,000 almond saplings, 10,000 vegetable seed kits, 57 metric tons of non-explosive fertilizer, and 80 tons of wheat have been delivered throughout Oruzgan, Zabul, and Day Kundi provinces.
“The average Afghan citizen makes approximately $200 annually,” said a U.S. Special Operations civil affairs officer who helps facilitate the project. “If properly planted and cared for, each tree is capable of producing $60 to $100 worth of almonds in a single season.”
Over time, according to U.S. civil affairs officers, those almond trees could produce larger yields and could become a significant source of income for local farmers.
Since October 2010, U.S. civil affairs teams have also partnered with Afghan government officials to provide agricultural training to approximately 600 local farmers throughout southeastern Afghanistan. This training is helping these farmers improve methods of planting and irrigation methods to resolve common problems in agricultural production, including the almond sapling trees.
A U.S. civil affairs team leader said these agricultural initiatives are essential in transitioning communities away from illicit crops such as opium and marijuana. Provincial government officials said the program could help farmers grow crops that will feed the populace, allow local communities to expand into different markets, and deny a source of income for the insurgency.
“This small cadre of farmers could eventually act as agricultural advisors and planners to the local community shuras,” said the civil affairs team leader. “We hope they will become the framework for a series of Afghan owned and operated cooperatives or production chains for almonds, saffron, wheat, fruit, and vegetable crops.”