Balkh farmers switch from poppies to strawberries for sustainable income

By Muhammad Qasem

Strawberries grown in Balkh province are displayed in this picture taken April 29 in Mazar-e-Sharif. [Balkh Department of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock]

Strawberries grown in Balkh province are displayed in this picture taken April 29 in Mazar-e-Sharif. [Balkh Department of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock]

MAZAR-E-SHARIF -- Farmers in Balkh have increasingly turned to growing strawberries over the last two years, abandoning poppy cultivation.

Strawberries have been cultivated on about 200 hectares of land in Nahr-e-Shahi, Balkh, Dehdadi, Chimtal, and Sholgara districts of the province, Mohammad Hassan Azimi, a general manager at the Balkh Department of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, told Salaam Times.

"Fortunately, our farmers in the last two years have turned to strawberries in five districts," he said last Thursday (May 4). "The income they get from strawberries is much higher than from cultivating other crops."

"Right now, annual yields on 0.2 hectare of land are one to two tonnes. We are planning to build cold storage facilities to store fruit, especially strawberries," he said.

Of the more than 337 metric tonnes of strawberries harvested across the country in 2022, 135 tonnes came from Balkh province, Azimi said, citing Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock statistics.

"Farmers in other parts of the province have also turned to cultivating vegetables such as cucumbers, tomatoes, okra, eggplants, etc. as well as fruits," he added.

Improved incomes

Rahmatullah, 51, a resident of Nahr-e-Shahi district, told Salaam Times that he has been growing strawberries on his 0.2 hectare of land since two years ago.

Before that, Rahmatullah cultivated poppies.

"Many of our youth have become addicted to drugs because of this illicit plant," he said. "This illicit plant is not worth cultivating because it takes human lives."

"The majority of villagers around us have turned to growing vegetables and fruits instead of poppies. Growing them and earning one's living from them are halal," he said.

For some farmers, growing poppies led to hardships.

"Every time I received money for growing poppies on my land, I always faced some hurdle –- either my children would become sick, or I would encounter another problem," said Ghulam Mohammad, 37, a farmer in Chimtal district who also previously grew poppies on his 0.4 hectare of land.

Now, after every harvest, he supplies almost 200 boxes of 300g and 600g each of strawberries in the market in Mazar-e-Sharif.

The 300g box sells for 100 AFN ($1.14), while the 600g goes for 200 AFN ($2.28), according to Mohammad.

Mohammad said he no longer feels guilty about the crops that he cultivates.

"I would work so hard all year, but it would not yield any results [because most of the money would go to smugglers and drug dealers]," he said. "Now, since growing strawberries, I have had a good income in the last two years and my life has improved."

"All of the farmers in our area have replaced poppy with strawberries," he added.

Lining smugglers' pockets

Poppy cultivation damages Afghanistan's image and leads to drug addiction for Afghan youth, Zabiullah Azizi, 44, a former employee of the Balkh Department of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, told Salaam Times.

"Unfortunately, drug smugglers in previous years deceived some of our farmers into believing that poppy cultivation results in high income," he said.

However, growing poppies serves only to line smugglers' pockets, said Azizi.

"Unfortunately, poppies were cultivated secretly in some districts of Balkh province in recent years. But in the last two years, most farmers have turned to halal products such as hing, saffron, soybean, cotton and flowers. They are also satisfied with their income," he added.

"I cultivated poppies for several years, but they created nothing except loss, sin and destruction. I decided to grow strawberries, and because of its high yields, I have had a good income over the last two years," said Mohammad Zahir Ahmadi, 38, a farmer in Chimtal district.

"When I was cultivating poppies in the past, I would be in debt even during poppy harvesting time," he said.

Do you like this article?

5 Comment

Comment Policy * Denotes required field 1500 / 1500

This is a really good development. Balkh province is an ancient province and has a rich culture. According to this culture, the residents of Balkh should not grow poppy in their fields. They have done a commendable job by replacing poppy cultivation with strawberries. We love the whole of Afghanistan, we want people all over Afghanistan to engage in work that is both halal and beneficial for the people of those places.


Farmers should always refrain from growing forbidden poppy seeds on their lands, because in the religion of Islam, it is forbidden by Allah (SWT). Cultivation of poppy harms our society. Now it is a matter of pride as the farmers of Balkh province turned to the cultivation of strawberries instead of Poppy crops. The use of strawberries is legitimate. Cultivating strawberries will increase the economy of our country, and farmers from other provinces of Afghanistan should also do so. It will be good as our homeland and our society get rid of this forbidden poppy seed. It is better for the farmers to provide AFN 100 for halal than AFN 1000 for illegitimate.


Agriculture is the backbone of Afghanistan's economy, and many people are engaged in agriculture and livestock, but Afghanistan's agriculture and livestock are still going forward traditionally. Agriculture and livestock farming in Afghanistan are still being done as they were decades ago. As the grandfathers and grandfathers of the current farmers used to farm and raise livestock, it is still being done. That is, old ways and methods are used a lot. Let's take Balkh, Kandahar, Samangan, or any other province as an example. Tens of thousands of farmers have indeed been helped with improved seeds, fertilizers, and chemicals. However, the rest are still farming and raising livestock in the old ways if the experts of the agriculture department give instructions to the local farmers in the districts and villages from time to time. That is, how to plant crops, how to water them, how often to water them, and when to spray them. So I am sure that it will get multiple seasons. I have a lot of experience in the field of agriculture, but we do not and cannot do it the way agriculture is done in the neighboring countries; however, if improved seeds are brought, with quality chemicals and medicines, our crops will certainly be many times better than now. Suppose work is done on the modernization and mechanization of Afghanistan's agriculture and livestock. If the necessary goods are delivered to the farmers, Afghanistan's agriculture and livestock will improve, and the farmers will be hap


May our fields be green and the news of the country's development increase. For years, we became a victim of other people's plots. Now we will enjoy the fighting of one who is sad at their home. I am talking about Pakistan; there have been protests since yesterday. Protesters have lit fires everywhere. Hoping that these protests will continue and expand and Pakistan will get destroyed the way they destroyed Afghanistan. These fires were ignited after the Punjabi army arrested Gul Khan. Imran Khan and other Gul Khans protested in response. We do not get anything positive from their disorder; however, we are also pleased about their situation because they have destroyed our country and our governments. I hope their system gets destroyed and the Punjabi women get humiliated the way they humiliated our honorable Afghan women and made them beg on the streets. We request Salaam Times cover the war in Punjab [Pakistan], publish updated reports, and make the fans happy about it.


Oh God, may God prolong this story so that we can see the destruction of Punjab in our lives. A devastation for which we all get surprised, but I wonder why Americans are upset about it. Two years ago, America made our country beg, and today Zalmay Khalilzad is worried about the situation in Pakistan. Why is one not getting upset about our condition? Once Britain came and plundered our homeland, then Russia came; the wounds of Russia had not yet healed as the Americans came to our country. And in the end, they left our country as an empty pot and escaped. Our pain did not sadden them, while today, Zalmay Khalilzad condemned the arrest of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan and called this act "deplorable." Stupid Khalilzadeh, at least you are initially an Afghan, then why do you feel sorry for them? Let this devil's nest country get destroyed further...