With around 80 percent of the Afghan population dependent on agriculture, interventions in this sector are central to reducing poverty rates. Over the past 10 years, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF)’s agriculture and NRM programme has transitioned from distribution of agricultural commodities to more sustainable activities that have led to increased production, improved food security, and stronger connections to markets for local farmers.
The Natural Resource Management (NRM) programme has reached more than 2.1 million beneficiaries through its work in field crops and horticulture, land and water management, and livestock. Since 2003, AKF has supported 35 private input suppliers that are now fully sustainable and provide improved seed varieties, fertilisers, pesticides, agricultural equipment, training and technical services (e.g., pruning) to over 400,000 farmers annually. Nine fully-privatised Mother Stock Nurseries (MSNs) provide varieties of more than 80,000 improved root-stock and saplings to more than 1,000 farmers per year. These interventions have contributed to increases in the average productivity of wheat (58%), potato (25%), apple (116%) and vegetable (25%) since 2005. On-farm skills development takes places through Farmer Field Schools (FFSs), participatory technology development groups, integrated crop management trials, demonstration orchards and field crop plots. These interventions allow farmers to share experiences with improved varieties and new technologies. AKF is now focussing on training government extension workers to train farmers through FFS. AKF has also provided significant support to government agriculture research stations in three provinces, four biological pest control labs covering the programme area, and a virus-indexing laboratory in Kabul. Most of these institutions have now been handed over to government. To promote sustainable management of natural resources, AKF has trained the Community Development Councils (CDCs) to implement common property resource plans across the programme area. These plans are complemented by land treatment measures that redress the extensive denudation of watersheds and rangelands. Twenty-three Water User Associations (WUAs), 63 Pasture Management Committees and seven Watershed Committees in five provinces have benefited 630,000 people with 40,000 hectares of land rehabilitated and irrigated for better resource use. AKF has also established 35 Livestock Development Centres (LDCs), 80 percent of which are now fully privatised. These LDCs and 140 associated Livestock Development Field Units have provided access to animal health services for more than 1.2 million people. Livestock farmers in target areas have reported a 65 percent reduction in animal mortality and morbidity, and farmers reported a 35-40 percent increase in milk and meat production and 25 percent increase in herd size in the past five years.