KUNDUZ -- The United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has helped 500 farmers in Kunduz province by providing agricultural tools and equipment.
The FAO has supported hundreds of needy farmers in Kunduz who could not afford to buy agricultural equipment, so they can better engage in farming, said Rahimullah Khurami, director of FAO projects in Kunduz province.
"We distributed seven types of agricultural tools for free -- hand carts, sickles, two types of pickaxes, water sprayers, soil mixers and two types of shovels --among 500 farmers in the provincial capital and Aliabad district, so they can manage their farms better," he said June 3.
"Based on requests from the impoverished farmers and surveys conducted by our technical teams, we were fortunately able to distribute working tools among these farmers so ... they can better manage the backyard gardens that are already established for them," Khurami said.
The UN in recent years has supported farmers by helping them create greenhouses and nurseries on their land, he explained.
"We are prepared to provide technical assistance to farmers so they can make progress and improve the country's economy," he added.
More aid was forthcoming one day later for another group of Kunduz farmers.
On June 4, the FAO distributed free soybean seeds and chemical fertiliser among 482 farmers in Chahardara, Imam Sahib, Dasht-e-Archi and Aliabad districts. Each farmer received 20kg of soybean seeds, 25kg of di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) and 25kg of urea fertiliser, Khurami said.
The objective is to promote the cultivation of soybeans in these districts and improve the farmers' economic situation, he added.
Hope for future
Farmers in Kunduz said they are more optimistic about the future now that they have new tools and equipment.
Besides creating hundreds of jobs, the greenhouses and nurseries recently established with the UN's support have improved the farmers' economic situation, said Masjidi Akramzada, 42, a farmer in the provincial centre of Kunduz.
An NGO established a greenhouse for Akramzada last year, and he said he is now becoming self-sufficient.
"I grow cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, lettuce, radishes, spinach, mint, cilantro and other seasonal vegetables in my greenhouse," he said. "I harvest them every season and sell them in the market."
"My daily income is between 200 and 800 AFN [$2.30-$9.25], which I spend on my basic needs," he said. "This helps me cover my living expenses."
Before receiving the FAO's support, most vegetable growers and greenhouse owners lacked the tools needed to plant and harvest their crops, he said.
In the current situation, Afghan farmers need the financial support of aid agencies and international organisations, which will help them achieve self-sufficiency, he added.
Rahim Gul, 51, a farmer in Aliabad district, said the tools he received from the FAO will help him weed his greenhouse in a timely manner and water the vegetables regularly.
"I have a greenhouse on less than 0.1 hectare of land. I harvest vegetables every season and earn halal income for my family of six," he said.
"I received seven agricultural tools today for free, which were the main tools necessary for my daily work," he said June 3. "Most of the agricultural tools in the market are very expensive, and we can't afford them. Now we are happy that we got them for free."
Khaliqdad Ghafoori, 56, a farmer in the provincial capital, said the greenhouse the UN built for him last year has improved his economic situation, as he is now able to harvest vegetables in every season.
"In the past, I could not grow vegetables without a greenhouse and I could not build one, but now I can grow vegetables year-round and earn a good income," he said.
"Most of our farmers are in a dire economic situation. I expect them to turn to growing vegetables since it does not require so much labour, while the income, compared to growing other crops, is better," he added.
Ghafoori is happy to receive the free tools from the UN, which he said he will use to achieve higher yields.
Providing agricultural tools and equipment for farmers will increase vegetable yields and strengthen the local economy, said Ahmad Milad Qaderi, 45, an agricultural specialist in Kunduz province.
"Afghanistan is an agrarian country. Agricultural growth helps the country reach economic self-sufficiency," he said. "Poverty will decrease with the growth and development of the agriculture sector."
"Vegetables need less water, so droughts cannot affect them," Qaderi said. "The more vegetables there are, the more work there will be for farmers, and consumers will also benefit from their yields."
"In the past, in addition to fruits, even vegetables were imported from neighbouring countries, especially Tajikistan, Pakistan and Iran, but from now on there will be no need to import vegetables and the residents of the provinces will no longer have to buy vegetables at high prices," he said.
"The establishment of greenhouses will help standardise agriculture in Kunduz and increase farm yields," he added.