Cablegate: Agriculture in Panjshir: Fertile Ground for U.S.

DE RUEHBUL #3721/01 3230457
O 190457Z NOV 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary: Small family farming is the staple of
Panjshir Province's economy, making it a high priority for
the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), as well as for
Governor Bahlol Bahji, who declared 2009 to be the &Year of
Agriculture in Panjshir.8 Local farmers make good use of
the valley's limited arable land, but lack modern techniques
and equipment, quality seeds and fertilizer, and the
resources to convert wheat and corn fields to higher-value
orchards. PRT activities aim to address these deficiencies,
and to increase jobs and income in a manner that builds trust
in Afghan institutions. Further development of Panjshir,s
agricultural sector will demonstrate what is possible when
Afghans take firm responsibility for their own security. End

Expanding Jobs and Income through Increased Yields
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. (U) The economy of Panjshir province rests almost entirely
on small family farms. Family farmers make good use of the
arable land wedged between the arid mountains of the Hindu
Kush, growing mainly wheat and corn but also potatoes, apples
and mulberries, as well as some oil seed, walnuts, cherries,
alfalfa and clover. Livestock and poultry are also
important. Long renowned for its mulberries, Panjshir lost
many of its orchards during the anti-Soviet resistance, when
irrigation canals were destroyed. Scavenging for fuel has
also led to deforestation. Today, most of Panjshir,s
farmers continue to work small plots of land, seeding by hand
and using the same oxen-driven plows as previous generations.

3. (U) Agriculture is a high priority for PRT Panjshir.
Programs are led by Panjshir,s USDA representative together
with RC-East,s Agricultural Development Team (ADT), with
support from USAID and PRT Civil Affairs. Our main
objective, consistent with the overall U.S. Assistance
Strategy for Afghanistan, is to expand jobs and income
through increased yields, linkages between farmers and
markets, irrigation, and conversion to higher-value crops.
Some of the PRT,s most successful projects are those focused
on women. All activities are closely aligned with the PRT,s
governance goals, ensuring that U.S. assistance leads not
only to provincial development but also increases Afghans,
confidence in their own government.

New Crops

4. (U) The PRT has been working since 2008 to assist
interested farmers in converting their wheat and corn fields
to higher income fruit orchards, especially apple, apricot,
almond, cherry and walnut. In separate projects over the
last two years, the PRT has supported the planting of more
than 100,000 fruit and nut trees in dozens of villages across
the valley. In addition, the PRT has helped establish thirty
different woodlots with 150,000 fast-growing poplar and
willow trees, for fuel and construction. Most recently, the
PRT funded training for 25 women in the planting, production
and marketing of high-value saffron. Other potential new
crops such as soybeans, red beans and sorghum are being
tested through the PRT,s experimental farm.

5. (U) Analysis by the USDA in 2008 revealed that wheat
yields in Panjshir are far less than their potential. Wheat
stocks throughout the valley are typically re-used, becoming
old and mixed with weeds and rye, and have little resistance
to pests and disease. Fields are over-watered by farmers
using flood-irrigation. To address these problems, the PRT
has established a demonstration farm, and is conducting
winter wheat trials to demonstrate the benefits of improved
water management, seed varieties, and fertilizer placement.
Earlier this year, USAID funded the distribution of 14,000
bags of fertilizer to Panjshiri farmers at far-below-market
cost through private sector dealers. In October and
November, more than 8,000 additional farmers received winter
wheat seed and fertilizer through the same USAID program.
Unfortunately, the PRT has not yet had the resources to
undertake significant irrigation projects in the valley,
though the impact could be significant given the scarcity of
arable land (arable land in Afghanistan being defined as land
under irrigation).


6. (U) PRT-funded road improvements throughout the valley
have improved the infrastructure for local farmers to move

KABUL 00003721 002 OF 002

their goods to market. Agribusiness is growing slowly. The
PRT, with a combination of the Commander's Emergency Response
Program (CERP) and USAID funding, has provided training to
100 women in six districts in the production and preservation
of jams, juices and jellies, along with marketing and basic
literacy skills. In addition, the PRT has provided more than
1,000 farmers with bee boxes for honey production. These
programs have been enormously popular, and the products are
reaching the shelves of Panjshir,s conex shops.
Cooperatives are also springing up for the first time in
connection with U.S. seed and fertilizer programs, and cool
storage facilities.


7. (U) The PRT aligns its agriculture programs with support
for good governance and Afghan ownership. Governor Bahlol
has been a strong supporter of farmers in the province,
declaring 2009 to be the &Year of Agriculture in Panjshir.8
At the Governor's behest, a large portion of Panjshir,s
2008 Good Performance Initiative (GPI) funds from State/INL
were spent on tractors, threshers, greenhouses, orchards and
canals. USDA representative works hand-in-glove with Line
Director Hashatullah Enayat, an energetic non-Panjshiri who
receives solid support from the Ministry of Agriculture,
Irrigation, and Land's Horticulture and Livestock Program
(HLP). USDA Rep is mentoring Enayat to turn first to his
ministry rather than the PRT, and to coordinate more
effectively with his fellow Line Directors to prepare
decisions by the Provincial Development Council.

Other Partners

8. (U) Panjshir does not attract the same level of donor
attention as other, more troubled, provinces. However, both
Japan and France have made significant contributions to
agriculture in the valley. Japan initiated Panjshir,s first
women's poultry project in 2008, providing chickens, chicken
coops, and training to 600 women in three districts. Japan
has also provided horticulture training and saplings to some
300 farmers. France, for its part, contributed 41 metric
tons of improved winter wheat seed last year, and now has
plans for a fish farm. French distribution of free wheat
seed in some areas, however, threatens to undermine private
sector seed dealers who say they may stop stocking wheat seed
in the future if there are more large-scale give-always of
seed to their regular customers. One significant U.S.-funded
NGO program is the Dutch Committee for Afghanistan's
establishment of privately-owned veterinary field units in
each of Panjshir,s districts, currently operating on a
fee-for-service basis.

9. (U) Comment: The &Year of Agriculture in Panjshir8 has
witnessed continued modest development of agriculture in the
valley, with support from the U.S. and other international
donors. In a province where insurgent activity is
negligible, U.S. assistance in this sector is not a means of
separating insurgents from the general population, but
instead showcases what is possible when Afghans take
responsibility for their own security. Continued U.S.
assistance on agriculture is important for economic
development in the valley, U.S. partnership with the people
of Panjshir, and strengthening local trust in Afghan
institutions. End Comment.

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