FAO in Afghanistan

Rangeland rehabilitation measures reduces pressure on land, boosts household income and induces peace of mind

FAO quarantined a rangeland area to reduce degradation levels ©FAO

Afghanistan has been traditionally mountainous, agricultural and grassland country. The rangelands, (defined as land with the main vegetation containing pasture, herbs, shrubs, wildlife, soils, minerals, and low-growing trees), are a source of livelihood for rural communities. It provides firewood and medicinal plants, habitat for wildlife as well as helps to preserve soil and carbon sequestration. 

By 2006, desertification in Afghanistan has affected more than 75 percent of the total land area in northern, western, and southern regions where widespread grazing and deforestation have reduced vegetation cover and accelerated land degradation.

Ghazni province, located in southeastern Afghanistan, has been known for its wide rangeland and livestock. However dry climate, excessive grazing, and overuse of rangeland products has resulted in its degradation.

In recognition of the vital role rangelands play in Afghanistan’s livelihoods and food security, FAO through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded project has been working with local communities and provincial stakeholders to rehabilitate rangelands in Ghazni since 2019.

FAO and GEF have supported the rural communities by establishing 32 ha of woodlots for fuelwood purpose, 660 ha of direct reseeding of alfalfa seed for rangeland rehabilitation and 40 ha of agroforestry as well as provided 250 backyard poultry farms as alternative livelihood option to decrease pressure on the rangeland.

“Rangeland is degrading day-by-day in Ghazni Province since there are no alternative livelihood options for the resident communities. Uprooting bushes and shrubs and selling in them in the local market was a good source of income for the community in the past, but it is causing degradation,” said Mr. Ghulam Hazrat, head of Ghaiby Rangeland Management Association.

“Thanks to FAO/GEF project, not only has there been awareness campaigns on the importance of sustainable rangeland management, but it has also provided us with backyard poultry farms as alternative livelihood, established woodlots for fuelwood, directly reseeded alfalfa seed for rangeland rehabilitation and fodder for livestock as well as provided apple orchard saplings as agroforestry,” he added.

To avoid overgrazing, 22 968 ha of rangeland has been selected for rotational and another 10 518 ha rangeland has been quarantined to pave the way for natural regeneration of rangeland plants.

To further decrease pressure on the rangeland, the community, especially women headed families were introduced to backyard poultry farming. This has the potential to reduce rural poverty, malnutrition as well as create employment opportunities for women.

“My chicken lay 15-20 eggs daily. In a week I’m able to sell 120 eggs at the local market earning 1 200 AF (roughly 13.30 USD). The other day, after selling the eggs, I purchased notebooks and pencils for my two school going children (Marzia, 7, and Mohammad Alli 10) along with some other food items for my family. It is easy and safe to collect eggs laid in my own home compared to collecting bushes and shrubs from the rangeland. Being busy with my poultry farm I noticed, I am no longer feeling depressed,” said Ms. Adella, backyard poultry farmer.

Ms. Adella, a resident of Ghaiby village in Malistan district, is one of the project beneficiaries of backyard poultry farm. Ms. Adella was suffering from depression for many years as her family went through a host of challenges due to deteriorating security and economic conditions in the country.

After attending a two day backyard poultry farm management training organized by FAO and funded by GEF, she was issued a poultry farm starter pack of: 27 hens, three roosters, drinkers, feeders, 150 Kg of feed and other necessary items for the chicken house construction.  Since then, she has ceased going to the rangeland and is able to feed her family from the poultry farm income.

FAO continues to be at the forefront of working towards sustainable agriculture and food systems by promoting protection and sustainable use of natural resources, while meeting society’s growing needs for decent and resilient livelihoods.