Helping Afghan Farmers Become More Resilient

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In the vast, mountainous region of Afghanistan’s Central Highlands, it is easy to miss the low stone wall that curves alongside a hilltop near Mahram Ali’s remote village.

But to Mahram, the contoured wall is the most important feature of the impressive landscape.

“All of my land was useless before,” Mahram says. “Now I can cultivate it.”

Throughout this part of Afghanistan, Catholic Relief Services works with farming communities to make their land more productive and less vulnerable to natural disasters.

CRS staff helped Mahram build the wall to protect his land from erosion. CRS also provided saplings that grow next to the wall for structural support. During the harsh winter, Mahram uses cuttings from the saplings to feed his livestock and as fuel to heat his home.

CRS also cleared part of his now-protected land so that he can grow alfalfa, which has become one of his most important cash crops. He now earns enough to send his oldest son to university, which costs about $800 a year.

“I feel happy, and I appreciate so much the work of CRS because my life has been made easier,” he says.

In Sange Sorakh, another farming community in the Central Highlands, CRS is guiding the people to dig hillside trenches.

“If there is too much snowmelt, the canal, which feeds the surrounding farmland, will wash out,” says CRS Livelihoods Program Manager Sam Nichols. “That could spell disaster for the nearby villages, which are made up entirely of subsistence farmers.”

Last year, flooding occurred five times. Each time, the canal was destroyed. Hillside trenches catch excess water and snowmelt, protecting the canal and the farmers from ruin.

CRS has been carrying out natural resource management work in Afghanistan since 2008. The work has benefited about 40,000 people. 

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Mahram Ali, with four of his eight children, is a farmer in Afghanistan’s Central Highlands. He credits CRS with making his land more efficient. “In the past this land was useless, and now I have production that provides my family income,” he says. Photo
This stone wall and the adjacent saplings are an example of the natural resource management work CRS has carried out in Afghanistan’s Central Highlands. The wall protects the land from soil erosion, and the saplings reinforce the wall and provide fodder f
Farmers dig trenches in the Sareqol Valley in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Province. These trenches will protect the nearby irrigation canal from washing out with excess rainfall or snowmelt. Photo by Elie Gardner for Catholic Relief Services
Mohammad Esa, an Afghan farmer, takes a break from digging trenches in the Sareqol Valley. “The main purpose of this work is to reduce disaster, and for the area to become green and to increase fodder for the animals,” he says. Photo by Nikki Gamer/CRS
An Afghan woman sifts wheat seeds. CRS’ natural resource management work  protects the harvests of hundreds of wheat farmers throughout Afghanistan. Photo by Nikki Gamer/CRS
“We work this land area because the work protects our canal and our canal irrigates our land,” says farmer and day laborer Dawlat Hussein. Photo by Nikki Gamer/CRS
A day laborer surveys the land prior to digging trenches in the Sareqol Valley. The work is facilitated by CRS. Photo by Nikki Gamer/CRS
Through CRS’ natural resource management work in Afghanistan, farmers plant alfalfa seeds on hillsides to capture excess water and protect the farmland below. The increased vegetation will eventually provide fodder for livestock. Photo by Nikki Gamer/CRS

 

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