Czech PRT helped establishing new fruit orchards in Azra

Jun 20, 2011

Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) carried out a training of fruit farmers, along with the distribution of fruit trees, in the Azra district of Logar province. Support and development of agriculture in Logar is one of the priorities of the Czech mission working in the eastern Afghan province.

Azra is an isolated district high above sea level, hardly accessible from the centre of the province. Most of the region’s inhabitants depend on agriculture; the majority live off crop production and breeding goats and sheeps.

Zuzana Biniová, agriculture specialist from the civilian part of the PRT, explains: “Climatic conditions in Azra favour fruit tree growing, which is why we decided, based on the local government’s request, to support the development of orchards in the region. By planting modern varieties of fruit trees, Azra farmers will be able to increase yield of their orchards, get more money for the crops and thus improve their economic situation.”

Fruit growing and manufacturing has always been one of the traditional branches of Afghan agriculture. However, Afghan farming has suffered during the lengthy military conflict. In the past three decades, the war often forced the Afghans to leave their homes; the continuity of agricultural production has been disrupted and the whole agricultural infrastructure has been damaged.

Apart from lack of means, lack of knowledge constitutes another grave problem for Afghan agriculture. “You can see this lack of knowledge in Afghan fruit farmers, who still grow obsolete varieties of fruit trees that only give little fruit. And they often know nothing about different methods of protection and fertilization of the plants; for example fruit tree pruning,” says Biniová.

The project provided 240 Azra families with trees to plant new orchards; their representatives went through an expert training and received basic equipment for fruit tree care. The decision about who will participate in the project was up to the local shura along with governmental authorities; they were choosing mainly from the economically weakest families of the region who could improve their economic situations thanks to the project.

“There are over two hundred new orchards in the neighbourhood, including ours. These new trees are supposed to give more fruit. We’ll see,”says Taza Gul from the Maruf Khel village. “We have apple trees, apricot trees and almond trees in our orchard. But it wasn’t only about giving us the trees and that’s it. First we had to attend a lecture on the layout of the orchard, how it should look, how to prepare the soil before planting or how to make our own manure,” continues Taza Gul, describing the training the farmers went through prior to the distribution of the fruit trees.

“Extensive knowledge of all the aspects of intensive arboriculture is the key to the success of our project,” explains Biniová. “That’s why Azra fruit farmers were trained in correct planting and maintaining of a young fruit tree. In the practical part of the training, they learned to prepare the orchard for hibernation and the principles of harvesting and storing the crops,” the PRT agriculture expert adds to local farmer’s account.

The training itself as well as the distribution of fruit trees was carried out under the supervision of Logar Ministry of Agriculture representatives. Cooperation with local authorities and encouraging their involvement in solving the community’s needs is one of the Czech PRT’s tasks.

The Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team has been operating in the Logar province in southeast Afghanistan since March 2008. Its civilian part comprises 12 experts from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic who are responsible for the realization of development projects and supporting the provincial government. Military part of the PRT secures the mission and is responsible for its safety; apart from that, it carries out other duties. It consists of 293 troops. The activities of the PRT range from security, agriculture development, water buildings reconstruction and building infrastructure to supporting education, health care and independent media. The Czech team has completed a total of 160 projects in Logar so far, including several Quick Impact Projects.

Written by: Kristyna Greplova, civilian part of Czech PRT

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