Mohammad Iqbal a farmer in Gushta district seems pleased and leading us towards his citrus orchard equipped with drip irrigation system and supported with integrated pest management trainings and tools by UNODC Alternative Development program in 2020. He says, “it was barren land four years back and now it is covered with colorful citrus blossoms which gives not only fruit but beauty to our village too”.
Nangarhar, the evergreen province in eastern region has been famous in its semi-tropical climate and conducive soil for growing citrus orchards. Citrus produced in Nangarhar is famous all over the country especially sweet orange. Citrus growers predominately small growers use traditional orchard management techniques to manage their farms. Decades of war coupled with several consecutive droughts affected farmers’ agriculture production due to lack of access to sufficient irrigation water. Increase in temperature and changes in the frequency and severity of droughts and floods pose serious challenges for farmers and threaten their food security and livelihoods. It makes it harder to grow crops, raise animals in the same ways that have been done in the past e.g., flood irrigation does not work anymore due to water inefficiency. Many farmers switched to poppy cultivation during the past two decades and Nangahar remained one of the high opium-poppy producing province in eastern region of Afghanistan.
In 2020, UNODC Alternative Development program initiated a project aiming to improve water efficiency, promulgate licit crop cultivation in Nangarhar province. The project was implemented in four districts and concentrated on rehabilitation of citrus orchards for 500 citrus growers who also were engaged in poppy cultivation. As part of the project, each farmer was provided with solar power systems, drip irrigation materials, training and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) kits in order to cope with the negative effect climate change.
Mohammad Iqbal had no access to irrigation water and his land was barren and without use. He was supported by the AD program through establishment of 2 hectares of lemon orchard equipped with drip irrigation system. The orchard started fruiting in its 4th year and he harvested 115.5 tons of lemon in 2022 which was worth approximately AFN 3,300,000 (US$ 37,930). Seeing Iqbal’s orchard, several farmers motivated to follow Iqbal’s path and establish citrus orchard and equip it with drip irrigation system. In Behsood district a farmer had established 70 hectares of citrus orchard equipped with drip irrigation system. Drip irrigation system is an efficient way of irrigation specifically in the prevalent drought in the country and saves up to 70% of water. A farmer’s orchard in Behsud district with the size of 1.5 hectare having 770 lemon and sweet orange trees was possible to be irrigated with 2” inch pipe using the drip irrigation system with minimal labor force only by switching the button of drip irrigation pump, which would not have been possible to irrigate with flood irrigation or furrow irrigation methods. Mohammad Iqbal says, “a well-managed citrus orchard gives approximately five times more income compared to the wheat, maize and vegetable”.