SCHOOL GROWS KNOWLEDGE— AND CROPS
Farming has been the primary occupation of Afghan families for centuries. However, farmers like 57-year-old Mohammad Shafi and his neighbors in a small village north of Kabul rarely gathered to share their knowledge and brainstorm on ways to boost the yield and quality of their crops.
Now Shafi leads his fellow farers in regular training sessions at his grape vineyard as a part of community-based Farmer Field Schools organized by Roots of Peace. With the assistance of a Roots of Peace extension worker, Shafi and his neighbors meet to discuss and learn proper ways to cultivate, harvest, sort, grade and package their produce.
These Farmer Field Schools are established to support the exchange of knowledge between farmers. Shafi’s sons and those of his neighbors often attend the sessions with their fathers, ensuring knowledge is passed from one generation to the next.
With Roots of Peace support, members participate in the field-based schools to learn new agricultural practices such a trellising, receive modern agricultural inputs such as pruning shears, and share experiences to find solutions to agricultural challenges.
“We have learned about important subjects such as diseases, fertilizer application, irrigation, and trellising,” said Mohammad Shafi, who said he doubled his grapes’ yield and his income with the modern practice of trellising.
The Farmer Field Schools take place in 17 provinces in central, easter, southeastern, and southern Afghanistan. One person is selected as a lead farmer who arranges classes for a group of 10 to 15 people from his or her village. There are more than 870 such groups with more than 12.000 farmer members including more than 525 female farmers.
The schools are a sustainable way to forge bonds between farmers and allow them to work together. Shafi said he and his neighbors will continue to hold Farmer Field School classes to improve Afghanistan’s agricultural sector — and their livelihoods.
“Agriculture has its role in the development of Afghanistan,” said Mohammad Shafi. “With agriculture, we are supporting our families.”