"I turned a dry desert into a wonderful plot of agricultural land," says Fatima from Afghanistan thanks to People in Need’s support

Fatima is a widow living in Yaka Toot village in Northern Afghanistan. The life of the fifty-year-old housewife has never been easy. With three sons and one daughter in one household, she was always busy with chores. For most of her life, she thought that agricultural work could not be a significant source of income. "In a place without any water resources, we cannot accomplish agricultural activities," she thought about her three jeribs (approximately 6,000 square metres) of land where the only source of water came from the rain.

Three years ago, People in Need, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and various partners started supporting natural resource management in the area. "One of their major focuses was establishing demonstration plots in order to show the locals how to manage watersheds, store rain and snow water and create other irrigation activities," says Fazluddin, People in Need’s Programme Manager in Afghanistan. Fatima recalls the beginning of the cooperation. "The team came to our village and explained that there were so many ways to create agricultural land. They explained all the different methods to me. I also received financial and technical support."

The new knowledge was introduced to the communities through Farmers Field Schools where People in Need encouraged farmers to learn and practise new techniques together. Fatima herself supervised one of the sessions. She passed on her recently acquired knowledge to other farmers. "The only selection criteria for a lead farmer was that he or she must have at least half of a hectare of land, their main source of living must be agriculture and that they must be interested in the job," Fazluddin explains.

The water destroyed my land before, now I have nice streams

In addition to financial and technical support, Fatima also received almond and pistachio seeds, ferula saplings, chemical fertilizers, animal manure, solar panels, a water pump, pipes for irrigation and other agricultural tools from People in Need. "On one third of my land I designed a terrace. I also changed the direction of the watershed on my land. Before, the water flowed from different angles and destroyed my land. Now, I have beautiful streams," Fatima explains. "With the support of People in Need, I also created a pond. I use this stored water for watering the planted trees," she explains.

She now has 330 pistachio and almond trees, 3,000 ferula seedling and 5,000 squared metres of her land is ready for cultivation. "I grow wheat, burly, flax, chickpea, clover and cover grasses. I turned a dry desert into a wonderful plot of agricultural land. My surroundings are now green and they provide me with a livelihood," says Fatima. She adds that she is now used to using fertilizers and different techniques like inter crop, crop rotation and zero tillage systems for better production.

60 women were learning from Fatima’s demonstration plot

All the knowledge she acquires, she transfers to other women in the village. "Now I have a really beautiful demonstration plot and the ladies from different neighbourhoods around the whole village come to me for knowledge and information," says Fatima. "In the last three years, 60 women have worked directly with Fatima and more than 30 families proved to be interested in Fatima’s job. The most informative for them was learning about preparation technologies, crop rotation, intercropping systems, water storage and how to use waste to effectively establish compost," Fazluddin explains and adds that Fatima also learned how to prevent soil erosion.

The whole project also had a positive effect on Fatima’s health. "I was suffering from depression but working on my demonstration plot helped me to overcome around 80% of my sickness. Even my doctor advised me to keep working on my land and that I would fully recover in no time," concludes Fatima.

The 40-month-long project "Natural Resource Management and Promotion of Sustainable Agrarian Livelihoods" supported 6,500 households (45,500 individuals) in three districts of the Samangan province in Afghanistan. The project was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and implemented by People in Need and its Alliance2015 partners Welthungerhilfe and Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (CHA). It has provided livelihood to people in 75 rural communities through effective resource management and the creation of sustainable sources of income.


Author: Petr Stefan, People in Need Communication Officer