Farm services programs in Afghanistan have boosted the country’s agriculture sector for years, increasing farmers’ incomes and production through a variety of supports that include everything from loans to new farming technology.
Here are some notable programs that have impacted Afghanistan’s farmers over the past two decades.
Afghanistan Farm Services Alliance (AFSA)
This four-year, $9.5 million program was designed to create a thriving supply network for Afghanistan’s farmers. The program successfully used a matching grant system to fund 18 Farm Services Centers (FSCs) in 17 Afghan provinces. These centers distribute necessary supplies, such as fertilizer and seeds, to farmers in a timely manner and provide services such as agricultural extension and credit. Employees hired to manage FSCs were trained in business and inventory management along with other aspects of running a business, such as marketing and bookkeeping.
Another aspect of the program that benefits farmers is the Farm Service Center Association of Afghanistan (FSCAA), a group of FSC owners that ensures that each FSC is helping its members. The FSCAA has grown to 25 members. The organization acts as a single collective bargaining unit to negotiate large input supply contracts and works together to land new business opportunities for its members.
Officials estimate that the program helped more than 95,000 people living in rural Afghanistan, including almost 38,000 farmers who benefited from agricultural productivity training and about 10,000 farmers who entered into financial agreements supported by the FSC. AFSA statistics also show that the program increased sales of farm and non-farm products by almost $50 million.
Afghanistan—Agricultural Credit Enhancement Program I & II (ACE)
This USAID program, which lasted from 2015-2019, granted credit to Afghan farmers, which they repaid after their harvests. For many years, the agricultural industry’s growth was limited in Afghanistan because farmers didn’t have access to credit. This program, which was funded by a $100 million grant to the Afghanistan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL), provided loans to all types of farmers, ranging from smallholders to large farm produce exporters.
To provide further support for farmers, the loan program also offered technical assistance to farmers so that they could improve their growing and harvesting practices. Over its four years, ACE supported more than $50 million in loans to Afghanistan’s agricultural sector and showed no loan losses by the spring of 2019. Now, ACE is working with Afghan Growth Finance to explore the possibilities of a long-term lending facility geared toward the agricultural sector.
USAID has worked with Afghan government agencies on other projects since 2006 to support farmers and increase opportunities for produce sales. The partnership has distributed seed, tools, and fertilizer to farmers to increase production, provided technology to increase farming efficiency, and connected Afghan farmers with financing and training.
Recent highlights have included providing loans to more than 2,200 farmers and agricultural enterprises, facilitating more than $200 million in sales of agricultural goods in the country and internationally, and rebuilding 277 kilometers of irrigation canals. In addition, USAID has helped create almost 650,000 jobs and provided support to about 190,000 households that work in agriculture-related fields.
One recent USAID program is focusing on repairing irrigation systems that have been damaged due to neglect and ongoing conflict. The On-Farm Water Management Project, which is funded by the World Bank’s Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, is working in 23 provinces to stabilize irrigation systems and ensure that more farmers have access to water for their crops. The work already is providing water to more than 55,000 hectares of farmland and has significantly improved the efficiency of water conveyance. As a result, crop productivity increased from 2 tons per hectare in 2010 to almost 3.5 tons per hectare in 2018.
Purdue University Partnership
Purdue University has worked with educators and farmers in Afghanistan since 2002, when two Purdue professors attended the reopening of Kabul University. The professors found the school lacking labs, teaching materials, and equipment, while faculty needed training. Over the years, Purdue and Kabul University have worked together to build up the latter university’s programs in education, agriculture, and engineering. Three Purdue staff members now work at Kabul University.
Along with supporting Kabul University, the partnership also has sought to strengthen Afghanistan’s agricultural sector through education. It has worked with an American development group to create a teaching farm at Kabul University, renovate the school’s agricultural facilities, and provide staff development. Through the partnership’s Advancing Afghan Agriculture Alliance, junior faculty members attend universities in other countries for a basic agricultural education and then teach other students when they return home to Kabul.
In addition, the partnership launched a scholars program with an $800,000 donation from Purdue that allows Kabul University faculty to pursue a master’s degree in agriculture at Purdue. In addition, the initiative provides course materials and teacher training for vocational agriculture high schools.