Afghan Projects Revitalizing Agricultural Markets Program (RAMP) NUT Project, 2005–2006

Revitalizing Agricultural Markets Program (RAMP) NUT Project, 2005–2006, USAID funded project, managed by Chemonics International, U.S. $943.489

Fruits and nuts are traditional market crops in Afghanistan and are well-known and recognized for their wonderful flavor and income producing potential. Yet, after 30 years of war, Afghan growers lacked the knowledge of modern cultural practices and lacked access to modern tools and inputs. The majority of nut processing in Afghanistan was done by hand, with some of the shelling methods contributing to increased fungus growth producing aflatoxins. In addition, exporters expressed a desire to have better access to markets outside of India & Pakistan, where the majority of Afghan almonds were already marketed. Afghan almonds had a positive image in India, Pakistan and in other minor regional markets, but they had a negative image compared to other markets in the aflatoxin intolerant European Union. With many countries offering Afghanistan lower or no duties on their imports, developing the almond industry for targeting countries for future exports would clearly give Afghan almonds an advantage in those markets.

From September 2005 to June 2007, Roots of Peace conducted a focused program to support almond growers, processors and traders in Mazar and Ghorband. Our established extension team, which included a women’s program, supported 1,864 male farmers and 1,418 female farmers with focused interventions promoting three cultural practices including, pruning, winter-time insect control, and use of bees for pollination.

A follow-on visit to the test pilot fields showed a 30-70% increase in yields as compared with non-participating farmers. The participating growers stated that insect pest were down 75-99% from the previous year reinforcing the practice of dormant spraying and demonstrating to growers what a small dollar investment and extra effort can accomplish. We also worked to establish 134 nascent farmers marketing associations, with a total membership of 5,653, to connect farmers to new urban buyers, expanding the market to absorb the increases in production.

Parallel to the work with growers we also mentored nut merchants in Kandahar, Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif, helping them organize their marketing associations and provided business development services. We organized investments by Afghan processors to construct buildings following GMP guidelines, and purchase of modern shelling equipment customized to suit the Afghan environment and their nut varieties. When fully operational, these processing plants will have an annual capacity to process 525 MT of export-quality, shelled almonds valued at approximately $3,750,000.