June 2002 -- For Afghanistan to overcome poverty and
malnutrition in the post-war, post-Taliban era, it needs to
develop and boost its agriculture. Around 85 percent of the
Afghan population works in the rural economy. Agriculture in
Afghanistan is largely a household activity, with women and
children as well as men producing crops, engaging in
horticulture and rearing livestock.
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is running two
initiatives to fight poverty and improve nutrition among the
rural poor, especially women. Working with local farmers, it has
set up village milk collection centers and started poultry
production for women.
Syed Mokhtar lives
with his family in the Mir Shah Aziz village near Kabul. Mokhtar
is a milk farmer producing around 10 litres of milk every day.
He keeps some for his family and sells the surplus on the
market. Until a few years ago each farmer in the village had to
transport his milk over long distances to the markets in Kabul.
There was no quality control and often the milk went bad before
it reached the market.
With the new
commercial milk collection center, built by the villagers with
support from FAO, things have changed significantly for Mokhtar
and 80 farmers in Mir Shah Aziz.
collection has become a routine for them. The milk collection
center is within reach for everybody. The milk collector tests
the quality of the milk and pays the farmer in cash. In Kabul,
the milk is pasteurized and processed and sold by local vendors.
In the city, demand for milk products is high and often dairy
products are sold out within an hour.
supports local milk farmers with training in feeding, cattle
management and marketing. And the project offers commercial
veterinary services, providing vaccinations against highly
contagious livestock diseases such as Anthrax.
So far, 16 milk collection centers have been created
around Kabul, with 450 farmers participating in the project. FAO
is planning to extend the project to more than 1 000 farmers.
It is not only for milk that big cities
like Kabul with more than two million inhabitants depend on
nearby villages. The eggs that can be found in the markets of
Kabul also come from small families in the nearby countryside.
Poultry production in Afghanistan was
severely damaged in recent years of war and conflict. Government
and private poultry enterprises were looted and collapsed.
Villages were destroyed and farmers and their families were
forced to flee.
Del Jan is a female farmer
who sought refuge near Jalalabad with her family when fighting
and violence erupted near her village. She has just returned to
her home. She does not earn enough money with her vegetable shop
to feed the family. Therefore Del Jan decided to take part in an
FAO project on village poultry production. More than 90 percent
of poultry production in Afghan villages is in the hands of
From FAO Del Jan received a starter
package of 10 hens, construction material for a coop/shed, 10 kg
of chicken feed, vaccines and training.
the past, with the local chicken breed, the family only managed
to produce around 50 eggs per year. Production was low, the eggs
were small and chicken mortality was high.
Today, using high-productivity breeds, Del Jan's
family produces more than 200 eggs per year. This has enabled
her to make a small income by selling eggs in the market in
Kabul. Egg production contributes about 40 percent of the income
of poor families.
Around 2 500 village
women living around Kabul, Jalalabad and Mazar-i-Sharif are
taking part in the FAO project and backyard poultry production
has improved significantly.
Training is an
important part of the project. For six months, small groups of
women meet three times per week to discuss poultry production,
management, marketing, and animal disease prevention. The
meetings also provide an opportunity to talk about social and
health issues. Under theTaliban, such meetings were absolutely
forbidden and considered a conspiracy. Nevertheless, the project
FAO also supports a dynamic and
self-financing Poultry Farmers' Association in Kabul. It
serves about 130 commercial poultry farmers. They receive feed,
vaccines and training which are otherwise unavailable in Kabul.
Farmers pay for the services offered by the Association. The
money is then used for other projects.
Today, the Association produces more than 3 tonnes of
poultry feed, 20 000 day old chicks and more than 265 000 eggs
Poultry production has big
potential in Afghanistan. Working with the farmers, FAO has
created a unique infrastructure of self-sustainable projects
that could be easily expanded. Involving more people in poultry
and dairy production close to the major cities would help to
generate income and business opportunities especially for women,
it would benefit refugees and internally displaced people and
would contribute to a better nutrition.