Monday, 14 October 2013

Pistachio and pulse production - Improving use of water catchments in Afghanistan

A 4-year project to help restore water catchments, improve catchment management, and in turn enhance rural livelihoods in Afghanistan is underway. The Australian Government and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) have partnered together on this project with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA).
The Mazar catchment site is being rehabilitated in this
community-based project (Photo: J. Rizvi)
Agriculture in Afghanistan is characterised by small and marginal farmers engaged in integrated farming production systems with cereals and legumes, fruit trees and livestock. Since Afghanistan receives low rainfall, it is critical to invest in soil and water conservation technologies that enhance farm productivity and diversify income-generation opportunities for farmers in rainfed areas.

This community-based project is working on social and conservation aspects of water catchments in dryland areas to demonstrate efficient use of natural resources. The research is directly involving farmers and other key stakeholders through community-based catchment learning sites and participatory processes. 


Women from Mazar receive training on setting up pistachio nurseries (Photos: J. Rizvi)
One of the highlights of the project is the capacity building of local women. As part of work to rehabilitate the Mazar catchment and provide women with a potential source of income, 540 women (from about 160 women groups) received training in nursery techniques for local pistachio and produced more than 80,000 pistachio seedlings. These seedlings are transplanted into the catchment by the community. The project will work to link these women groups with other development agencies and buyers to make the nursery raising an additional source of income for the women.
Community members dig terraces and plant pistachios (Photo: J. Rizvi)
Women will also receive training in processing, value addition, and marketing of medicinal plants. 12 women from Mazar recently participated in a study tour to Nangarahar province to work with farmer associations there (established by ICARDA).

Women visiting herbal remedies producers in Nangarahar province (Photos: J. Rizvi)
Research capacity in MAIL staff is also being built. Training for 29 researchers in production of legumes in dryland farming was recently provided by the Indian Institute of Pulse Research in Kanpur, India. This training was jointly funded by ACIAR and the Government of India, and three similar courses are now being organised.

This project hopes to contribute towards the sustainable economic wellbeing of a large number of rural poor in Afghanistan, through increased productivity and the rehabilitation and efficient use of natural resources. It is expected to reach out to more than 20,000 female and male farmers.

Partners: The project was established by ACIAR and AusAID, with the Afghanistan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL). The commissioned agency is ICARDA. Other supporters are the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). The project team works with MAIL through its Agriculture Research Institute of Afghanistan (ARIA), Dryland Farming Unit (DLF), Department of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (DAIL), Department of Forestry, and Department of Natural Resource Management. Other partners are Solidarit├ęs International, Sustainable Land Management Institute (SLMI) at Bamyan University, and Baghlan and Balkh Universities. This partnership between research and development organisations will engage the wider rural-development community and build links to markets and the private sector.

By Dr Javed Rizvi, Project Leader and Country Program Manager of ICARDA in Afghanistan


More information:
ACIAR project LWR/2008/047- Integrated catchment management and capacity building for improving livelihoods in Afghanistan

ACIAR's research strategy for Afghanistan
Land & Water Resources research program

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