Thursday, 18 July 2013

Afghani farming systems program meets up in New Delhi

The inaugural program oversight meeting for Improving the Productivity of Afghan Farming Systems in Water Scarce Environments was recently held in New Delhi, India. ACIAR staff member Joy Hardman gives this report...

This AusAID-funded program for Afghanistan includes three ACIAR projects researching sustainable wheat and maize production, integrated catchment management, and livestock forage options, all with the aim of improving the livelihoods of Afghani smallholder farmers.

Afghani farmer with maize harvest

We were fortunate to have His Excellency Abdul Ghani Ghuriani (Afghanistan’s Deputy Minister for technical affairs at the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation & Livestock; MAIL) as the meeting Chair. H.E. Ghuriani is clearly engaged with real issues in Afghani farmers’ fields as well as matters of policy, and this was demonstrated through his informative observations, suggestions and questions.

Other attendees included ACIAR’s Dr Eric Huttner (Research Program Manager for Crop Improvement and Management) and key representatives from Kabul University, International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and AusAID. Project leaders from the three ACIAR projects reported, touching on the logistical difficulty of operating in Afghanistan. I was impressed by their abilities to make the most of opportunities when they arise, and to work around problems.

Left to right – Dr Javed Rizvi (ICARDA), Prof Samadi (Kabul University),
Dr Eric Huttner, H.E. Deputy Minister Ghuriani, Mr Ben Kybert (AusAID),
Mr David Swete Kelly (RSDM Consulting), Dr Surabhi Mittal (CIMMYT
Recurring themes that were discussed included: capacity building and institutionalisation, sustainability in all facets of research and development, broad stakeholder engagement, program monitoring and evaluation, and increased external communication about the successes of these projects. Having lived in Central Australia for 10 years and worked with Australian aboriginal people, I was interested to note a number of similar issues mentioned, related to the arid environment, remote locations and working with people who have been dislocated.

A meeting like this marks the beginning of a longstanding relationship - one of the cornerstones of ACIAR’s partnerships. The cross-cultural engagement and finding common ground was easy, as our Afghani partners are genuinely and sincerely engaged. I shared books I had brought on Australian native plants and animals, and on arid Central Australia. From my perspective, meeting with the project leaders after so many emails, putting a face to a name and getting a sense of their personalities was both a fun and informative part of operating in an international context. 

ACIAR South Asia Country Manager, Dr Chatterjee and Joy
in the ACIAR New Delhi office
I also spent two days working alongside our ACIAR South Asia team (Dr Kuhu Chatterjee, Simrat Labana, and CV Krishnamurthy) in New Delhi. Understanding their regional role in liaising with project partners and seeing how they use ACIAR systems in-country was informative. I shared news from Canberra HQ and we made a greater commitment to operate more fully as a team.
More information
ACIAR's projects
CIM/2011/026  Sustainable wheat and maize production in Afghanistan 
LWR/2008/047 Integrated catchment management and capacity building for improving livelihoods in Afghanistan 
AH/2012/021 Improved livelihoods of smallholder livestock farmers in the crop-livestock systems of Afghanistan (to commence soon)

Written by Joy Hardman (ACIAR Program Support Officer)

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