NANGARHAR -- The provincial government in Nangarhar plans to distribute new farming equipment to farmers and fruit growers in the province so that they can become self sufficient.
The project kicked off at the beginning of October with funding from the United States.
"These pieces of equipment will be distributed to 640 farmers in six districts: Achin, Chaparhar, Sherzad, Khogyani, Kot and Rodat," Nangarhar Governor Ziaulhaq Amarkhail told Salaam Times on October 5.
"They include small and large pruning hooks, personal protective equipment kits, harvesting tools, ladders and other tools. Every fruit grower will receive a package of equipment worth more than 26,000 AFN ($338)," he said.
These pieces of equipment will enable farmers to produce high-quality products and increase their income, said Amarkhail.
"We first ensured security in these six districts, and now we have rolled out these agricultural projects for them," he said. "People help us in maintaining security, and we implement such projects that directly benefit farmers."
"We strive to improve the economic situation of farmers."
One of the project aims to help farmers switch from growing poppy to lawful crops, said Rahmatullah Wahdatyar, provincial manager for Community-Based Agriculture and Rural Development project.
"We are planning to establish 2,120 local orchards and 162 small orchards, and these pieces of equipment will allow farmers to grow fruits in a professional way and help them stop growing illicit crops," he said.
"Besides distributing equipment to fruit growers, we plan to train them as well so that their yields can increase," he added. "These tools will enable farmers to prune their fruit trees on time and control pests."
"In order to prevent poppy cultivation and create a better alternative for farmers, we are planning to establish 700 jeribs (140 hectares) of new fruit orchards this year in various districts," said Inamullah Sapai, director of the Nangarhar Department of Agriculture.
Militants have long profited from poppies by taxing farmers and traffickers and running their own drug factories that turn raw opium into morphine or heroin for export, with drugs then trafficked through neighbouring Pakistan and Iran.
A normal life
"In previous years, we grew poppy as anti-government groups were in control in Chaparhar. There was no security, and growing anything was allowed," said Kefayatullah Dawlatzai, a resident of Chaparhar District.
Dawlatzai has planted orange and peach trees on his 2 jeribs (0.4 hectare) of land and received farming tools as part of the initiative.
"Now that there is a ban on growing poppy and that the security forces are in control, we are happy that the project establishes orchards for us, and we have grown licit crops instead of poppy. They also gave us tools, which I'm very excited about," he said.
"We needed security more than anything else, and we have achieved that desire as all of Chaparhar is now secure, and we live a normal life," said Dawlatzai.
"In the past, we used to go to Bati Kot District and other areas during fruit-picking seasons to bring oranges and peaches for eating and sale, but now it is God's mercy that we have fruit orchards here," he said. "Now, we ship fresh fruit to other districts and the city [Jalalabad], where we sell them."
"We don't need poppy now as we have planted orange trees and planted vegetables beside them, allowing us to harvest double yields," said Haji Hussain, another farmer in Chaparhar District who has established fruit orchards on his 4 jeribs (0.8 hectare) of land.
"It brings us twice as much income as we earned from poppy. Our lives have improved as we are confident that we grow permissible crops and make our money legally," he said.