A large number of agricultural areas were monitored in order to assess the status of fruit and vegetable cultivation at the household level and not just in A specialized areas. In fact, the areas for fruit and vegetable production intended to supply local markets and export have almost completed disappeared, apart from negligible scattered pockets of lands. Most production is presently for self-consumption only.
Results for all the nucleus fruit nurseries and private nurseries indicated that the fruit sector collapsed during the last five years. The number and quality of fruit trees available from and marketed by fruit nurseries at the private level have decreased. Nevertheless, the nurseries remain the only reliable source for the collection of fruit tree materials.
The survey also provided the following main findings:
The nucleus fruit and private nurseries have a valuable collection of local genetic resources. In the case of apricot and grape, the collection is totally represented by indigenous varieties.
The development of horticultural crops is limited by the poor level of post-harvest practices. The entire sector has been depressed by the highly perishable nature of most horticultural products associated with poor grading practices, the absence of cold storage facilities, a lack of adequate packing material, and the total absence of farmers organizations to market their produce.
Afghan farmers are increasingly interested in vegetable crop production, which gives a more immediate and greater source of cash than do traditional subsistence crops.
Horticultural crops are therefore in a strong position to support food security and the rehabilitation of Afghan rural economy.
Afghanistan is mostly rural with a total number of 128 407 farming families, equal to 89 percent of the total number of families in the areas surveyed. The number of farming families would have been higher had it been taken into account that in districts with villages near largely populated cities, such as Mazar-I-Sharif, Jalalabad and especially Kabul, the percentage of farming families is reduced as a result of the alternative job opportunities offered by the urban centres.
The rate of families with their own land is obviously high, being 91 percent of all the families interviewed. The rate of land ownership in the remote rural areas far from the biggest urban centres is close to 99 percent.
A deficit in irrigation water is reported in 20 percent of the surveyed areas, and is considered by the farmers as the main limiting factor to the development of horticultural crops. Irrigation is carried out through furrows (54 percent). The main water sources are "karez" (underground channels) (17 percent), springs (21 percent) and wells (8 percent).
The development of agricultural and horticultural crops is severely limited by the very low level of farm power. Indeed, animal traction is still the main farm power option for 42 percent of the farmers, followed by mechanized power (32 percent) and manual labour (26 percent).
Within the range of natural disasters and manmade calamities that have affected the villages from 1999 to 2002, drought has been reported as the most common calamity, followed by civil unrest. In response to these disasters, humanitarian agencies offered assistance to 45 percent of the surveyed villages.
On average, 13 percent of the arable land and 25 percent of the irrigated land were used for the cultivation of horticultural crops. These figures are therefore indicative of the increasing role being played by horticultural crops in the rural economy despite the difficult agro-economic reality of the country.
The most common fruit species grown in Afghanistan are grape, apple, almond, apricot and pomegranate. Main vegetable species are watermelon, honeydew melon, onion, potato, tomato, carrot and turnip. In the fruit orchards and the grape vineyards, only 44 percent of the farmers practise pruning, 78 percent chemically control pests and diseases, and 53 percent use chemical fertilizers.
Production quality still remains at a low standard despite the countrys highly suitable climate for producing high quality fruits. This results in a lower market value for the fruits and lost opportunities for farming families to increase their income.
Low plastic tunnels (LPVs) are mainly used by the farmers in Loghar and Balkh Province for the production of early vegetable crops. These farmers are more innovative and inclined to invest in the application of this remunerative practice.
Farmers have recently been paying more attention to the management of short cycle crops such as vegetables, as compared to that of fruit orchards.