GHNI Afghanistan Staff Report: (semi-edited)
Our trees became a model in the Yakawlang District of Afghanistan. As we approach Spring, thousands of poplar tree cuttings will be distributed to farmers in the area. Many farmers are gathering in the tree fields and asking for cuttings, that they in turn can re-plant for their own tree seedlings. It shows that they saw the results and trees have a good impact in their villages. They wait for cuttings and plant in their own fields.
Many farmers have become self-sustainable through these efforts, and we are seeing many poplar tree fields in other parts of the Yakawlang District.
Settled deep in a desert valley, like much of Afghanistan, the Valley of Al* has suffered from decades of war and drought. In times past, Afghans were self-sufficient in food production, and they also managed fruit and nut orchards, raising enough of both to export. Following the war, much of the forests, orchards, and tree cover have been destroyed.
Transformational Community Development:
GHNI has been involved in the agriculture sector for several years in Afghanistan, including training farmers in agriculture practices. The results have been encouraging.
The people in this area had previously been relying on the ever rising production of poppies for income. Opium, made from poppies, is a highly trafficked drug and this farming community knew there must be a better way to feed their families.
Poplars are already used throughout Afghanistan in construction and as fuel wood. This established market, coupled with the fast growth characteristics of the introduced hybrids, offers an excellent opportunity for an agricultural product that will compete with poppies as a source of income. (Indeed, one farmer stood before his neighbors and proclaimed, “These are better than poppies!”)
GHNI sees its role as a catalyst, setting up model poplar woodlots and supporting farmers in creating others, and then having others copy these successes. GHNI supplies the capital and expertise to introduce this business model, and can work with Ministry of Agriculture officials to educate local farmers and create a market for the cuttings.