New Agriculturist Focus on /6 Focus on Agriculture after conflict



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An alternative to opium?

In the northern province of Kunduz, wheat yields are reported to have increased from 66,000 tonnes in 2006 to 116,000 tonnes in 2007. In a country struggling with the rise in opium production, this is a notable increase. Weak governance, insecurity and cheap labour with few alternatives are all factors that have encouraged cultivation of the poppy and on marginal, low-yielding land in areas still suffering from conflict, there appear to be very few viable options for farmers to grow other crops. However, Kunduz is one of the few provinces where opium has not been grown this year and this, reports the department for agriculture and irrigation, is due to the availability of improved seed and irrigation. Others claim that the climate in Kunduz is ill-suited to poppy production.

Nevertheless, more than 250 tonnes of seed have been distributed in Kunduz this year. Many farmers still access their seed informally but the quality of seed cannot be guaranteed. In response, the Afghanistan government has requested assistance from FAO and partners to help establish a plant health testing and seed multiplication system in the country. A new seed law regulated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock will govern how new varieties are released into the market. FAO is also currently nurturing small start-up seed companies; eight so far, where farmers are contracted to produce certified seed that growers can depend on. Making that seed system sustainable, while providing seed at an affordable cost is a challenge but, for any Afghani farmer, achieving improved yields and a better income may be worth the price.



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