Agriculture is the source of livelihood for 80% of Afghanistan. 4/5 of the Afghan population live in rural areas and most are farmers or farmer laborers. It has a farming population of 12.1 million meanwhile non-farming population is only 2.5 million. Farm sizes are usually very small. Farms cover nearly 3 million hectares of irrigated land and about 3.5 million Ha of cultivable rainfed land. The arable portion of the total land area of 6.5 million hectares shows in itself the paucity of agricultural resources in Afghanistan: arable land is a mere 10% of the country’s territory (comprising 653,000 square kilometers). Afghanistan has about 0.3 hectares of arable land per capita, which is very low by international standards. When the scant precipitation and difficult climate conditions in many parts of the country are also taken into account, these figures make clear the hardship and resource poverty endured by Afghan farmers trying to make a living out of their country’s land. In total, three quarters of all farmers, with total holdings below 5 hectares, control only 13% of the land (19% of the irrigated, and 8.7% of the rain-fed).
Towards a Solution
Fruits are the main crops grown in Afghanistan. Fortunately, the country's lands can grow important and valuable fruits. According to a report published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock of Afghanistan 2019/2020, about 23 types of fruits are available including grapes, almonds, pomegranates, apples, peaches, cherries, apricots, plums, figs, pistachios, berries, malt, orange, lemon, kiwi and nuts in different provinces of the country in the form of orchards. Although the country has great potential in terms of fruit cultivation, the production amount of high-value crops like cherries, peaches and plums do not meet the country’s demand. Therefore, the merchants are importing such products from abroad in order to satisfy the unmet demand for these fruits.
Therefore, it is important to improve the situation of agriculture, increase yields and mechanize agriculture. Afghanistan is a mountainous country with wide plains. Due to its geographical location and topography, it has different ecosystems that make this country spectacular from an agricultural point of view.
Promoting and introducing crops with superior economic value, strengthening traditional crops, introducing and disseminating land-based agricultural technologies, improving and modernizing cultivation methods, increasing yields, improving horticulture, educating farmers and gardeners are essential for the development of Afghanistan and its people. Agricultural education can have an important effect on the sustainable development of the agriculture sector and unlocking its potential.
The TİKA Program Cooperation Office in Kabul provided technical and financial support, for the purpose of agricultural cooperation, established the research and experimental gardens and training programs at Kabul University. The Kabul University Agriculture Faculty Fruits Research and Application Garden Project aimed to introduce high-value crops such as cherry, peach and plums to Afghanistan’s agricultural market. One other main objective of the project is to provide infrastructure for the Agriculture Faculty of Kabul University so that the teachers and students of faculty can do researches to find out the best type of fruits mentioned above according to the climate and soil type of Afghanistan’s provinces. After feasibility studies that are going to be carried out by academic personnel, the products and improved saplings are going to be distributed throughout Afghanistan to ensure project's sustainability while securing a good source of livelihood for farmers and households.
With Kabul University Agriculture Faculty Fruit Research and Application Project, different types of valuable products are being introduced in order to support the economies of farmers and households in Afghanistan (SDG 1).
Afghanistan has about 0.3 hectares of arable land per capita, which is low by international standards. The project’s main goal is to use the arable lands feasibly to yield more products with a high economical value for households. The project also aims to contribute to the researches on improved nutrition, sustainable agriculture and production (SDG 2, 12).
Aside from the relevant goals mentioned above, the research and application garden created in Kabul University enables university teachers and students to conduct researches on different types of cherries, peaches and plums to specify the best yields of crops according to Afghanistan’s climate and agricultural lands in different provinces (SDG 4 and SDG 8).
In the established research-educational garden, about 1500 fruitful seedlings were planted for practical and research courses of the Faculty of Agriculture. This will enable strengthening of education and research in Afghanistan and will be continued to be used optimally and the generation of these orchards, which include several species of cherry, plum and peach trees, that will be planted throughout Afghanistan.
In addition, after the research on different types of cherries, peaches and plums, the results will be shared with farmers all around Afghanistan in order to sustain the projects’ effect and make the product widely available.