FAO in Afghanistan

Certified seed increases wheat harvest and gives economic reprieve to farmers

Mohammad Osman, a 69-year-old farmer from Balkh province, collects wheat harvest from his field ©FAO/Aziz Hashimi

Farmers across Afghanistan have been greatly affected by the multitude of crises that have affected the country in recent years. From conflict to climate change, many are struggling to make ends meet. However, there are some positive stories of success despite all the challenges.

A two-hour drive from the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, Barmazid village in Balkh district is home to around 500 families. Most of the residents in the area depend on agriculture and livestock farming for their livelihood. However, the unprecedented drought throughout the country, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a lack of economic opportunities have forced many farmers to grow local seeds or sell their livestock to buy certified seed and fertilizers. Farmers and herders in the area already have pending debts that they are not able to repay.

Sixty-nine-year-old Mohammad Osman, a farmer from Barmazid, said he used to cultivate local seeds, but the results were poor. With funding from the EU Humanitarian Aid, FAO supported Osman, who heads a family of eight, with wheat cultivation assistance last year.  Like the other farmers assisted by FAO, he received certified wheat seed, fertilizers and associated training.

The assistance enables each agricultural household to plant 0.4 ha (2 jeribs) of land with wheat seed and produce up to 1.2–1.4 tonnes of wheat, which are worth approximately USD 600–700. The wheat cultivation package also empowers each agricultural household to produce enough wheat to cover the cereal needs of an average Afghan family for one year.

“We were buying wheat seed from the local market before, but we didn’t have a good yield. FAO provided me with 50 kg of certified wheat seed and 50 kg of urea fertilizer, along with technical training on wheat cultivation. Because of pending debts, soaring prices, and the economic decline, I wouldn’t have been able to afford to purchase certified wheat seed. Without the support from FAO, I would now be in a critical economic situation,” the farmer from Balkh explained.

Osman cultivated the 50 kg certified wheat seed in two jeribs (0.4 ha) of land in his village. He is expecting a far better harvest this season thanks to the high-quality, locally-adapted, drought-resistant certified seed by FAO.

“The seed provided by FAO, in comparison to that which we buy from the market, has very good yield. We expect to harvest up to 1 400 kg of wheat crops from the 50 kg certified wheat seed that we cultivated,” he added while harvesting.

He will produce enough wheat to cover the cereal needs of his family for one year, as well as have a surplus that he can sell to generate income for other family needs.  He will also keep some wheat for the next cultivation season, so he doesn't have to face the same problems in the future.

FAO will assist more than 9 million people in 2022 through a range of interventions supporting crop, livestock and vegetable production, cash transfers and the rehabilitation of vital irrigation infrastructure and systems.