UN greenhouse project enables year-round harvests for Helmand farmers

By Abdul Khaleq Hamim

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has built 82 vegetable greenhouses for farmers in Helmand province, which will allow them to grow produce throughout the year. [Abdul Khaleq Hamim/Salaam Times]

HELMAND -- As part of its humanitarian assistance to Afghans, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has built 82 vegetable and fruit greenhouses for farmers in Helmand.

Of those, 42 are situated in Gereshk district and 40 in Nad-e-Ali district.

Despite the cold weather, farmers have started growing produce such as cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and okra in these greenhouses.

All of the farmers covered under the programme are needy and could not have grown their produce without the assistance.

A farmer in Nad-e-Ali district, Helmand province, is seen February 9 in his greenhouse built by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). [Abdul Khaleq Hamim/Salaam Times]

A farmer in Nad-e-Ali district, Helmand province, is seen February 9 in his greenhouse built by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). [Abdul Khaleq Hamim/Salaam Times]

Mohammad Saber Zaheri, 42, a farmer in Nad-e-Ali district and one of the beneficiaries of this programme, was badly affected by drought in previous years and had lost his income.

"I am very happy that I own a greenhouse for the first time," he said. "This assistance by the UNDP is very effective and has brought hope to us farmers, motivating us to work harder."

"Every morning I go to the greenhouse with enthusiasm and start working," Saber added.

If it were not for the greenhouse, he would have to go to Iran for work, he said, adding that he is very happy that he does not have to emigrate and has the opportunity to work on his own land.

Supporting farmers

The establishment of greenhouses in Helmand has created work for dozens of farmers who could not otherwise farm in the winter.

Nabi Jan Afghan, 41, a farmer in Nad-e-Ali, said the greenhouse will improve his economic situation by providing good vegetable yields in all seasons of the year.

"I could not grow vegetables in the winter and fall in the past since I could not afford a greenhouse," he said. "With the greenhouse, from now on I can grow vegetables all year round and will have work."

Most farmers do not work in the winter, resulting in economic challenges, he added.

"Farmers will be saved from poverty and unemployment if they can keep farming throughout the year and have an income."

Afghan noted that he would never been able to own a greenhouse without UN support.

Bismillah, 27, another Nad-e-Ali district farmer, has cultivated fruit such as cucumbers and tomatoes in his greenhouse.

They are expected to be ready for harvest in a few months, he said.

"The price of produce increases in the winter. I will have a good income when I pick the yields of my greenhouse," he added.

"Cultivation in a greenhouse does not require a lot of work while its income is good for us, farmers."

The money earned from harvesting the produce from the greenhouse will enable Bismillah to provide for his family of eight, he said.

Year-round harvest

Establishing greenhouses will increase vegetable yields in Helmand, said Khairullah Mohammadi, 37, a farmer in Gereshk district who is a beneficiary of UNDP's assistance.

"Vegetables cannot grow in the winter in Helmand, so most of the vegetables are imported from Pakistan and Iran," he said.

"From now on, there will be no need for the import of vegetables from the neighbouring countries, as we will have vegetables from our greenhouses."

"The establishment of greenhouses will help standardise agriculture in Helmand and increase farm yields compared to the past, he added.

With agricultural growth and an increase in farm yields, the farmers' income will rise and they will be saved from poverty and hunger, Mohammadi said.

With vegetables from the greenhouses in Helmand, the residents of the province will not have to pay excessive sums for imported vegetables next winter, said Hedayatullah Mutmaen, 48, another farmer in Gereshk district for whom the UN has established a greenhouse.

"Afghanistan is an agricultural country. Agricultural growth ... will help the country reach economic self-sufficiency," he said. "As agriculture grows and develops, poverty will decrease."

"Greenhouse vegetables need less water, and droughts cannot affect them. The more greenhouses there are, the more work farmers will have, and more [consumers] will benefit from their yields," Mutmaen added.

Under the current circumstances, Afghan farmers need financial support from aid agencies and international organisations. This support will lead to Afghanistan's self-sufficiency in the long term, he said.

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Building greenhouses is something new in Afghanistan that has become very profitable. So far, in the provinces where the farmers have built these greenhouses, they have got good advantage of it. Afghan peasants should call the [illegible] to work and convince themselves in order to achieve good results. I know farmers who have greenhouses and they are very satisfied and say that they wish we had built these greenhouses earlier. In the past, people used to get crops from grain fields one season and another season. Now there is everything in every season and they can plant anything which is a great achievement.


Almost 17 years ago, fresh vegetables could not be found in the winter months in Kabul, Afghanistan, and farmers did not grow any kind of fresh vegetables in the warm provinces of Afghanistan, because the very cold weather used to ruin the crops. Thanks to these greenhouses, now the people of Afghanistan have enough access to fresh vegetables in every season. In the past, the people of the city and the countryside used to dry most of the vegetables in the summer season and used it in the winter season, and currently, thanks to the same United Nations' programs that made our farmers own greenhouses, it is also beneficial for the farmers, and for the urban people of Afghanistan. Thanks to these greenhouses, the people of Afghanistan have enough access to fresh vegetables at cheap prices. Thousands of people are busy growing fresh vegetables in the winter season. Also, thousands of people have been provided with work related to these vegetables. In the past, farmers were sitting idle in their houses during the winter season, and currently they are busy farming their greenhouses. The more greenhouses are built, the stronger Afghanistan's agriculture will become, the stronger Afghanistan's economy will become, and the poor people will find work.


Agriculture and industry are the economic backbones of the country. Building greenhouses are suitable, but training farmers in this field is also useful. The temperature of the greenhouses should be considered with changing the seasons, and training for farmers in this area is essential. In addition to the mentioned aspect, attention should be paid to the market and the seeds. The negative side of most of the organizations is that to facilitate their work in the rural areas, they have assigned Maleks [tribal chiefs] over the people, so whoever they are good with land in the village, they give them improved seeds, and if they are not good, they don't give them the sources. There is as much difference between a thief and a thief as a thief by day and by night. Malek is a day thief, and that's it. According to my information, most of the improved wheat seeds were sold or turned into flour by the Maleks. We support the development programs of UNDP and other organizations in Afghanistan, but they should do the work themselves, not at the hands of others. Also, building and expanding cold storage is necessary to build greenhouses in the country. It is often the case that the harvest market is terrible. It is helpful for the farmers to keep their crops in cold storage at such a time, but this is impossible. If cold storage is built in the country on a large scale, we can store our products in our cold warehouses when the market is terrible and supply them to the market when the marke


In the greenhouses, all kinds of vegetables can be used in the year's four seasons, and people can use them fresh. Afghanistan is an agricultural country, and the people's economy is mainly based on agriculture and livestock. Although there are few facilities for the livestock sector, some attention has been paid to the agriculture sector, and the farmers can get good harvests occasionally. Still, one thing lacking is the lack of seasonal vegetables like in other countries. Most of them are brought from neighbouring countries. Still, if the number of such greenhouses increases, this facility will be provided to those who will buy fresh vegetables from time to time instead of rotten vegetables.