MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Government of Japan are providing fresh support to help some of Afghanistan’s poorest farmers cut crop losses and raise incomes.
The agricultural project, financed by an $18.5 million grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR), administered by ADB, will build more than 1,700 new storage facilities for potato and onion farmers in the central provinces of Bamyan, Kabul and Panjsheer. It will also provide training in modern farm practices for up to 10,000 people and supply new equipment to improve the quality of edible oils produced in Jalalabad and Mazar-e-Sharif.
“Because most farmers currently lack the means to properly store their crops, they cannot delay the sale of produce after harvest to take advantage of optimal market prices,” said Randall Jones, an Agricultural Economist with ADB’s Central and West Asia Department. “This is a major obstacle to increasing incomes and reducing poverty in rural Afghan communities.”
Central Afghanistan, where agriculture is the lifeblood, has some of the lowest growth rates and highest incidences of poverty and unemployment in the country. Nationwide, agriculture contributes more than half of GDP and a third of households rely on farming as their primary source of income.
Replacing earth pits with partially buried concrete and brick storage units will keep vegetables at optimal temperature, allowing them to be stored for up to five months, and to be sold when market prices are higher. The facilities are expected to cut post-harvest losses from about 40% to about 2% by 2016, with returns to farmers 30% above 2013 baseline levels by 2018. The establishment of 40 farms to showcase modern agricultural techniques will support increased output and the development of new crops.
The project will build more than 400 community storage facilities on village-owned lands to ensure the poorest and most marginalized farmers benefit. One in 10 training sites will be for women, who are often the most disadvantaged in poor rural communities, where they are frequently left on their own to manage homes and fields when males seek work elsewhere. It will also incorporate a gender-sensitive equity payment scheme, and work closely with community development councils, including women’s shuras (councils of elders).
Along with the JFPR grant, the Government of Afghanistan and communities will provide in-kind assistance of almost $11 million, for a total project cost of nearly $29.5 million. The project will run for four years, with an expected completion date of 2016.