FAO in Afghanistan

FAO builds livelihood resilience through greenhouse establishment

A female farmer from Hyderabad village in Bamyan province works at her greenhouse ©FAO

Families across Afghanistan have struggled tremendously in recent years from a multitude of crises. The prevalence of conflict, economic instability, and climate-induced droughts have created desperately difficult conditions for millions of people. Hunger has become prevalent, with over 18 million in need. Despite this, actions taken by FAO show that there can be a way forward, and that a small input can have a big difference for families across Afghanistan.

Due to its cold climate and mountainous geography, Bamyan province in the central Afghanistan has a short growing season. Farmers have limited time to grow crops, especially vegetables, as the growing season lasts for a maximum of five months a year. During the rest of the year, the weather is either extremely cold or snowing. Further to this, many local people have little knowledge about cultivation of different vegetables, as well as their nutritional value. 

Afifa is a 46-year-old resident of Hyderabad village Bamyan province. She is a farmer who was supported by FAO with the establishment of a small-scale greenhouse, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). She had occasionally cultivated leafy vegetables during the summer months using traditional methods to provide fresh vegetables for her family before receiving assistance. But she always desired to produce vegetables for a more sustained period throughout the year. 

FAO provided Afifa and 17 other female members of the common interest group in Hyderabad village with greenhouse inputs packages, planting materials, vegetable seeds of cool crops and greenhouse management training to produce diverse vegetables in all seasons of the year. The greenhouse inputs package and planting materials provided by FAO include covering plastic, water tank, tarpaulin, fruits harvesting baskets, drip irrigation system, thermometer, plants’ training rope, insect proof mesh and pruning shears.  

Since the establishment of the greenhouse, Afifa and her family have benefited significantly. During the first two years after receiving the support, she used the vegetables produced in the greenhouse only for family consumption. After two years, Afifa’s husband decided to further expand the size of the greenhouse by 50% to increase the vegetables production. Her family can now produce different varieties of vegetables, such as cucumber, tomato, capsicum and spinach, as well as earn up to 50 000 Afghanis (around USD $550) a year from selling the greenhouse products in the local markets. The income will cover for the family’s basic needs and their children’s education and healthcare. 

Afifa said that her and her family, “Would not have been able to earn this much income if we were to plant potatoes in one jerib (0.2 ha) of land.’’

She often shares the vegetables from her greenhouse with relatives and neighbors for free, something she is extremely proud of. 

The specific greenhouse planting and management training by FAO also helped Afifa learn about effective vegetables production techniques and the impact of consuming vegetables on her family’s health.  

“My greenhouse has helped us have vegetables on our dining table regularly, and the health of my children improved from before," Afifa added. 

Afifa’s husband Kaka Mohammad said that the income from the greenhouse has improved the family’s economy as the income is covering most of their needs. “Establishing the greenhouse is like learning to fish rather than just receiving the fish ready,” he said referring to the sustainable benefits of the greenhouse to his family.