KUNDUZ – With support from the World Food Programme (WFP), Samangan officials have launched a new initiative aimed at rehabilitating the province's pistachio forests and restoring the natural landscape.
Under the project, about 1,000 Samangan province residents will be hired to plant 100,000 pistachio seedlings, according to Abdul Ghafoor Karimi, director of the Forests and Pastures division of the Samangan Department of Agriculture.
In other areas workers will sow seeds and not seedlings, Karimi said.
The six-month initiative launched on May 16 in Cheghat, Shiltako and Rebatak villages in Aibak, the provincial capital, covering some 500 hectares of land in the province.
"Workers will receive 8,000 AFN ($90) monthly and are expected to work 22 days in a month," he added.
The initiative, with a budget of more than 48 million AFN ($540,000) provided by the WFP, is being implemented with the co-operation of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan in Samangan province, according to Karimi.
"A reservoir with a capacity of 380 cubic metres will be constructed as part of the project to irrigate the pistachio forests," he added.
"Moreover, a local dam, which was flooded and filled with mud and sand in the Koh-e-Shamar area, will be cleaned and subsequently used to irrigate pistachio trees during the coming summer months," he said.
"Samangan's climate is perfect for agriculture. We have prioritised the reforestation of pistachio forests and plan to expand the reforestation in the future," Karimi said.
"With the initiative's support, we will rehabilitate parts of the pistachio forest that have been destroyed because of various reasons over the recent years and will maintain the existing forests," he added.
Workers have welcomed the initiative.
Khuda Bakhsh, 46, a resident of Aibak, said he is very pleased that he now has a job through the project after failing to find one over the past several months.
"I am a day labourer. My economic situation has worsened in recent months. I would go out to find work every day, but I would return home empty-handed," he said.
He has a six-member family to feed, he added.
"Now that I am earning 8,000 AFN a month, I can bring enough food to my children. I am employed for the coming six months, and thereafter, Allah Almighty is great," he said.
"We first dig a hole and then plant a pistachio seedling in it. This is a mountainous area and very conducive to growing pistachio," said Ghulam Mustafa, 38, from Shalkotai village near Aibak, who works on the project.
"If there is security, we can work harder to build a prosperous future for all. However, if there are unrest and instability, everything will be the opposite and nobody will live with peace of mind," he said.
"I am pleased that I can bring greenery to our society and can provide food for my family," Mustafa said.
Samangan residents have also praised the agricultural project for addressing environmental challenges and the impact of climate change.
"Unfortunately, pistachio forests have sustained constant damage from various shocks over the past several years. If these forests are rehabilitated, the economic situation ... in Samangan will improve significantly," Ahmad Zekria Hadafmand, a resident of Samangan, told Salaam Times.
"Forests are very important in preventing soil degradation and poor air quality. If there are no forests, polluted air will spread pests and diseases," he added.
"Forests play an important role in reducing the negative impact of climate change, including cold weather in the winter and hot weather in the summer," he said.