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Roots of Peace in Afghanistan

Roots of Peace, a new partner to Earth Charter International, has been planting the principles of the Earth Charter in the soils of Afghanistan. RoP is removing landmines from fields, and helping Afghan farmers to rebuild vineyards that were destroyed by war and drought on those same fields.

                     

From 17 of these nurseries in 2005, RoP already has 38 — and expects to have more than 300,000 new plants this year.

 

The group has helped about 3,500 farmers switch to higher-value varieties of grapes, install trellises, control pests, and market the grapes and raisins abroad.

 

This is a major step toward sustainability, especially in a country in crisis – and the Afghan minister of agriculture has credited this initiative with a significant impact on the country’s GDP.

 

These programs’ benefits combine to double farmers’ income. The demand for saplings is so high that one farmer made over $4,000 off of his nursery.

 

Many other farmers are expressing interest, but they often lack the USD $7 in credit needed to purchase the materials that could pay for themselves within one year.

 

 

Almonds!

 

RoP also launched a nut sub-project at the end of September 2005. Extension workers are working in and around the Ghorband valley, Aibak, Mazar-i-Sharif and Tashqurghan to show farmers improved pruning techniques, how to use bees for pollination, and how to use pesticides safely and effectively.

 

Trees in the program’s demonstration plots have shown 30 to 50 percent greater nut-set density. Over 4,400 farmers are receiving extension services, including 1,400 women.

 

RoP has also helped form over 100 nascent nut farmers’ associations, and introduced them directly to urban nut exporters. Total membership in these organizations exceeds 2,900 farmers who own over 330,000 trees.

 

And RoP has built three new nut-packing facilities, and is helping merchants’ associations take over their operation and ownership. The program has helped these groups import a nut-shelling line, designed for Afghanistan, from the United States.

 

 

Raisins!

 

RoP is helping farmers learn new techniques for producing raisins, including new methods for building green raisin drying houses quickly, and the use of a dipping solution that cuts drying times in half, allowing for two drying runs in one season.

 

These techniques can more than double a farmer’s income from raisin production. The program has subsidized the construction of 11 wooden, green-raisin drying sheds and paid to rehabilitate 46 traditional mud construction sheds.

 

This work is supplemented by assistance to raisin processors, who will wash raisins and prepare them for foreign markets. RoP helped three raisin processing plants upgrade their facilities to reach international standards for safety and quality.

 

A raisin-drying shed built using a new design that RoP imported from India allows farmers to produce green, shade-dried raisins that sell for twice as much. The project has published a manual explaining the technology.

Efforts to foster raisin exports to Russia and the Ukraine have led to 1,380 metric tons in continued shipments to those countries.

 

 

Trellises and Technology

 

Together with farmers, RoP has built over 1,000 trellising demonstration plots in private vineyards to show farmers the benefit of this technique on their own grapes in their own fields.

 

The advantages of the trellis are three-fold: they keep grapes off of the soil where they are susceptible to disease; they make work easier for the farmer; and they leave more room on the ground for additional plants.

 

RoP has published a manual that shows farmers how to use readily available supplies and equipment to build the concrete poles.

 

RoP also works hard on the marketing of Afghan products. It has helped merchants sell over 100 metric tons of chilled fresh grapes in 2005. These went to markets that Afghanistan has never reached before: Germany, Ukraine, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Kuwait and India.

 

RoP has built two grape packing facilities with pre-coolers and cold storage rooms. These facilities have been strategically placed in centers of grape production and will allow farmers to cool their grapes shortly after harvest, greatly increasing shelf life. Ownership of the facilities will be transferred to merchant-farmers associations.

 

These initiatives have not been easy, nor free of problems. The challenge of bringing traditional harvesting practices up to international quality standards is more than formidable. The program found great difficulty training pack house staff and farmers on new quality demands and maintaining the cold-storage supply chain during shipping.

 

For more information, see the Roots of Peace website: http://www.rootsofpeace.org

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