AGP - Afghanistan Rangeland Conservation Program
 
Typical rangeland aspect in Herat province

The UNDP-MDG program serves the national priority goal To encourage social protection in rural and urban areas through assisting the development of a comprehensive approach to management and use of the natural environment and resources of Afghanistan (NDF). Specifically, the FAO component of the program devises and pilots a support strategy for community-based management of environmental resources and improved services for local communities in natural resource management through direct interventions in collaborating communities and capacity building in government and non-government institutions.

Many centuries of overuse of natural resources have led to the severe degradation of agro-ecosystems. This process was accelerated by three decades of war and lawlessness. High rates of seasonal labour migration are proof that the resource base can no longer support the human population. Afghanistan is, relative to its currently available agro-ecological resources, extremely overpopulated.

COSEM II survey in Herat province, Zinder Jan district

In order to reverse this process, rural communities must learn how to take charge of the rehabilitation of their agro-ecosystems. Lack of knowledge, and extreme difficulties to mobilize and organize communal action are holding them back. The MDG programme focuses on these two issues and places extension of technical knowledge and mobilization of communal action at its centre. Implementation of the program will be pursued on two closely related tracks:

  1. Piloting community based rangeland resource management in a collaborative programme with a number of rural communities
  2. Building capacity by knowledge transfer at the national and regional level in the Ministry of Agriculture
Typical fire fuel in Ghor province - poor farmers are reduced to using minimally lignified plant material (Cousinia sp., Alhagi pseudoalhagi and similar). All woody vegetation down to the smallest shrubs as been already eliminated by fire fuel harvesting.

Decades of ill-advised emergency relief programs have compromised the willingness of rural communities to take initiative to improve their lives. It appears to be easier for many of them to wait for the next donation than beginning work to rehabilitate their destroyed resource base. Furthermore, the majority of farming families in Afghanistan are now so dependent upon off-farm labour income that it is difficult for them to invest effort into activities that do not yield an immediate monetary return. Lack of technical knowledge is pervasive. No effective government extension capacity exists because of the lack of technical specialists with sufficient theoretical and practical knowledge to work in agricultural extension; no farmer to farmer learning tradition exists, and individualistic behaviour of farmers limits cooperative learning. Ill-advised past efforts at community mobilization during the Communist government have thoroughly discredited concepts of communal action successful elsewhere, especially the farmer cooperative approach. University programs in agriculture do not teach practical skills, and effective vocational training in agriculture is virtually not available; accordingly, there is no dependable framework for the building of qualified human capacity. Our program responds by re-building, in cooperation and with substantial contributions from partner communities, agro-ecological resources (rainfed forage production on rehabilitated rangelands, rainfed fire fuel production, water harvesting and storage, kitchen gardens for improved food security and family nutrition, livestock feeding and management extension). We have developed a strategy for cooperative community mobilization that emphasizes community responsibility, contribution and communal management and sharing of benefits. In a series of technical papers we communicate our work in progress and lessons learned.

Community council (shura) discussing survey COSEM II survey question in Ghor province

Core Themes