Afghanistan women farmers demonstrate agriculture can recover after war
An aid project in Afghanistan helps enterprising women to multiply grain seeds for cropping, share vegetable seeds and breed better goats.
So far the work has affected 14,000 women, and helped establish new micro businesses, such as extracting essential oil of peppermint and rosewater to sell at the markets.
The agricultural aid project run by the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) has been funded by the Australian Government..
“We’ve been extremely successful in developing women based enterprises in Afghanistan,” said Dr Andrew Noble the deputy director of ICARDA.
“These include training women to build seed delivery systems effectively that are around their communities.
“These women are trained in the technical side of producing quality seed and also the business side.
“So successful, in fact, that you now have women-based enterprises which are quite unique in Afghanistan.”
The women are not only involved in multiplying seeds, but also with projects providing superior goat genetics, and improving the breeding stock of their flocks.
It has given agronomists hope that agriculture can be rebuilt in other countries, like Iraq and Syria.
Syria’s broken food systems
Once a net exporter of grain, now 9.6 million Syrians need food assistance.
Syria’s brutal civil war has destroyed agricultural infrastructure, with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reporting in November, just a tenth of the seed for crops has been delivered to farmers.
The chain of harvest to silos and distribution to markets in Syria has also been destroyed, with just 22 grain collection sites left, from the 140 prior to the civil war.
Before the war, FAO said Syria could produce 4 million tonnes of wheat, and nearly half would be exported.
That has shrunk to 1.5 million tonnes.
Livestock like cattle, sheep and goats have been killed in the war, and the poultry flock has shrunk by 60 per cent, due mostly to the lack of chicken feed.
But despite the catastrophe, international agronomists hope to restore it quickly once the conflict ends.
The International Centre for Agriculture Research in Dryland Agriculture, or ICARDA was evacuated from Aleppo 2012, and its centre was badly damaged.
Its vast seed bank was taken to Svalbard’s vault in Norway, and elsewhere to research centres that were re-established in Oman, in Morocco, Addis Abbaba in Ethiopia, Cairo in Egypt, Uzbekistan and through Pakistan, Afghanistan and South Asia.
Dr Andrew Noble said it would not take long to rebuild farming in Syria, given the development in agriculture prior to the war.
“I have great confidence of rebuilding farming in Syria, because they had a very functional agriculture system prior to the conflict.
He said 20 years ago Syria was a net importer of grain, then before the current conflict, it was a net exporter.
“What was put in place was a functional research system which could be rejuvenated very quickly, and there’s capacity that can be deployed to do that.
“In Iraq — there’s now movement towards conservation agriculture, to minimum till and producing and manufacturing the machinery of zero tillage planters.”
The Fertile Crescent as it is known, including Syria, is where all the major global crops originated.
ICARDA holds the genetic material that Australian researchers access for all the grain and pulse crops, like lentils, which is entirely dependent on the ICARDA breeding program.
Australia funds overseas agricultural research institutes to the tune of $35 million a year, including areas after conflict, like Afghanistan.
Source: ABC News. Date: 20 December 2016