By Kelly McKinnon, ROP Program Manager

It’s winter in Afghanistan. In Kabul that means the mountains surrounding the city are capped in white, and the city is hazy with the smoke from stoves and fires warming houses. In the mornings the sunlight streams through the haze and all of the people are bundled silhouettes on their way to work or school or elsewhere.

In our offices we pull the heaters close to our desks and sit with our hands turned towards the warmth. There are CHAMP staff members whom I’ve rarely seen without a coat on in the winter months.

The streets are wet and muddy and the snow covers the rose gardens and the barbed wire, which are equally common sights. As with fresh snow anywhere, it makes the whole city beautiful.

In the markets Afghan produce is harder to find. Bananas and citrus are brought in from Pakistan. One can find grapes, but they are twice the price. Apples in plastic bags are from Afghanistan, apples in boxes or styrofoam or any other packaging really, are imports.

CHAMP has been promoting apple storage for just this reason, prices in the off-season are higher and products from outside Afghanistan are meeting demand. Some farmers store apples in rudimentary stores dug into the orchards, other farmers are able to take advantage of new storage cellars. CHAMP is building more than 40 of these storage cellars this year.

Farmers around the country care for their dormant orchards, make visits to family members and collect money for the sale of fruits from their harvest to middle men. The almond and apple trees need the freeze of the winter to produce abundantly in the coming year.

In warmer areas of the country, farmers may grow a second crop. In Jalalabad some farmers grow vegetables like cauliflower or carrots. Even in the areas surrounding Kabul, like Parwan, some farmers will plant a winter wheat.

Generally, farmers have less to do these months but as soon as February they will begin work for the spring season.