Alberta farmers are making a difference in Afghanistan.
That was the message delivered to about 100 supporters of the Picture Butte Grow Project – one of 34 Canadian Foodgrains Bank projects in the province – at a recent harvest celebration dinner put on by the Prairie Tractor and Engine Club.
The featured speaker was Nejabat Khan, a worker with the Presbyterian World Service and Church World Service Afghanistan.
While the Afghanistan war is the focus of media coverage, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank is having a major impact by feeding the hungry and helping them become more self-sufficient, said Khan, who lives in Kabul and manages food aid and food security programs on behalf of the CFGB.
The projects he works on rely on grain donated to the Foodgrains bank, which is sold to buy food, with the proceeds being matched on a four-to-one basis by the Canadian International Development Agency. This year, the harvest from 4,500 acres of Alberta farmland was donated to the CFGB.
One farmer asked about the importance of the American and Canadian military, and Khan replied that is the only way to keep the Taliban and al-Qaeda at bay, and give the Afghan people a chance at democracy.
Khan also spoke of the environmental degradation which has occurred during decades of conflict in the country. Uncontrolled grazing and deforestation have worsened the effects of drought conditions, displaced farmers, and encouraged poppy and heroin production.
Climate change a reality
He said climate change is a reality in Afghanistan, but there is little opportunity for researchers to gather hard evidence on it. Afghanistan rated eighth most vulnerable to climate change by the Climate Change Vulnerability Index.
Snow is melting more rapidly in the Afghan mountains, causing floods during late spring and early summer and leaving a shortage of irrigation water during the growing season, he said.
But there are some bright spots in the country, thanks to the Foodgrains bank, Khan said. For the Hazarajat drought assistance project in 2007, 944 families were supported through food packages, livestock fodder and vaccination for animals. Also, 630 sheep were distributed to 211 families along with fodder support, veterinary activities and supplies. The people were able to build 52 water sources.
The Zabul food security project in 2008-2009 assisted 12,772 families. Improvement to irrigation canals allowed agricultural production to jump by 250 per cent.
Another 2,000 farmers increased their wheat production by 166 per cent through improved wheat seeds, fertilizer, and training.
Farmers became organized and empowered to share their resources for common work and profit, Khan said. About 200 famers trained in horticulture and 20 demonstration orchards were established. A major benefit of the support was a reduction in the high retail price of food grain in the area.
The Kandahar returnee reintegration project in 2008-09 had major impacts, Khan said. About 2,075 acres of farmland was brought under irrigation to benefit 2,535 farming families. The rehabilitation of 39.5 kilometres of link roads helped farmers access the markets, he said, and vocational training for women gave them with a degree of economic independence. Farmers were organized and they now have a common platform to exchange ideas, and a large number of Foodgrains bank beneficiaries have become active supporters of joining the mainstream through peace and development initiatives.
CanadianFoodgrains BankaidhelpsAfghan farmers,saysaid workerNejabatKhan