Roots of Peace has worked in Afghanistan since 2003. We are proud to be recognized as a leading perennial horticulture expert in Afghanistan. Our operations in Afghanistan are headquartered in the capital city of Kabul with field locations in Bagram, Gardez, Herat, Kunduz, Lash Kargah, Mir Bocha Kot, Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif and Kandahar. Operating with a staff of 250 employees who have worked in all 34 Afghan provinces, we work on projects aimed at revitalizing the Afghan economy.
Root of Peace History in Afghanistan
Our efforts began with the clearance of landmines left from the Soviet occupation during the 1980s and the Afghan Civil War of the 1990s. ROP funded work in landmine clearance north of Kabul in the Shamali from 2003-2005. Our replanting efforts began in 2004 when we provided expertise, training and support to improve rural farm productivity and the re-establishment of local, regional and export markets.
Roots of Peace is an organization dedicated to the demining and redevelopment of mine-affected regions. We believe it is not enough for organizations to just clear land of explosive remnants of war, but that the land must be made livable and productive again. ROP suggests that the Demine-Replant-Rebuild model may be a good model for other organizations as well.
Restoring a post-conflict community to productivity is a lengthy and costly venture. The act of mine clearance is a major step and the most costly one in the process. Clearing the land of explosive remnants of war, however, does not automatically create the catalyst for follow-on development or agricultural tasks. In fact, there is no guarantee that clearance will lead directly to such activities and the return to effective use of the land.
Typically, donors expect to see development and agricultural enterprises spontaneously occur following clearance. They are looking to see real impacts from their contributions, such as farmers once again harvesting their fields or children returning to school. However these activities do not tend to happen naturally in a war-torn or post-conflict environment. In countries ravaged by war, investors are limited, and basic survival is often the focus—unlike countries with thriving economies where investors quickly realize value from their investments.
History and Mission
In 2003 the United Nations and HALO Trust asked ROP to apply the Demine~Replant~Rebuild program to its work in Afghanistan. ROP agreed—Afghanistan had an urgent need for assistance and it would be a good test for the model. The country was filled with mines laid not only by the Soviets, but also by the quarreling Mujahideen groups and by Ahmad Shah Masood’s forces fighting the Taliban, making much of the prized agricultural land uninhabitable.
The challenge in Afghanistan however goes far beyond the mines and UXO. Agricultural development was and is in a ruinous state as Afghanistan has been fighting conflicts since 1978.
ROP looked at implementing its program in Afghanistan’s Shomali Plains region, an area just north of Kabul. The Shomali Plains had been a major grape-producing region until the war between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, when millions of mines and pieces of UXO prevented cultivation. In the early 2000s the standard shelter for the rural Afghans in the Shomali was a tent provided by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. With refugees living in or next to minefields, the mine incident rate was atrocious. Explosives such as artillery shells and mines were the cause of approximately 33 percent of refugee deaths. At times there were as many as 50 incidents a week.
With private financing led by donations from Diane Disney Miller, ROP funded equipment and mine-clearance teams for HALO from 2003 to 2005. Unlike MAG in Cambodia, HALO did not have connections with development organizations, so the task fell to ROP to organize the follow-on activities. ROP submitted a proposal to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to help the grape farmers of the Shomali. USAID awarded a $6 million contract to support ROP’s development activities in Afghanistan. This project launched ROP’s new direct participation efforts in re-development. Previously the organization had always contracted with others to perform fieldwork; it now began to implement its Demine~Replant~Rebuild model directly in Afghanistan.
ROP worked closely with the HALO team to identify the mine-clearance tasks, focusing first on the irrigation canals, then on the village/vineyard combinations. Once clearance of the chosen communities was completed, the ROP teams followed with agricultural extension support for the vineyards, partnering with University of California—Davis for extension services. This combination was a success, as was ROP’s initial foray into the world of agricultural development.
ROP followed this first development program in Afghanistan with 30 more programs that were implemented in 28 of the country’s 34 provinces. ROP currently employs 250 people in Afghanistan who perform agribusiness development activities and school building projects. ROP no longer funds mine clearance in Afghanistan since the major agricultural areas are mostly cleared and the country’s mine-clearance focus is now on more remote areas.
ROP’s experience in Afghanistan has solidified the organization’s commitment to the Demine-Replant-Rebuild approach. ROP has built a school and a fresh–fruit packing facility in the Mir Bacha Kot district of Afghanistan—this was land that HALO cleared. ROP continues to work closely with the farmers of this former battle area. The farmers ROP has worked with in Mir Bacha Kot district are now earning in excess of $10,000 per year, much more than the $1,054 per year per person average for the country.
The farmers ROP has worked with in Mir Bacha Kot district are now earning in excess of $10,000 per year, much more than the $1,054 per year per person average for the country.
Looking Toward the Future
ROP’s follow–on projects are diverse and span the country, but they all continue to have the same focus: improving the economic and social livelihood of the rural population who return to their land following clearance. Examples of ROP’s follow–on projects include supporting agricultural activities—which is a primary focus for all the rural areas of countries where the nonprofit works, and furthering the impact of its outreach by extending its work to agricultural processing, export programs, trade policy, irrigation, the building of schools, and to support local sporting organizations.
With a grant provided by USAID in 2010, ROP embarked on a $40 million CHAMP program in the restive southern region of Afghanistan to work with over 26,000 farmers. ROP started a second major program in 2012 to support and build the capacity of the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock. This program, called Agriculture Research & Extension Development (AGRED) is a 5 year program with funding up to $66M. See the Projects section for more details on both programs and our past work in Afghanistan.