Afghanistan was once known as the “Orchard of Central Asia,” but decades of war have uprooted orchards and vineyards throughout the country. Droughts and floods create additional problems for Afghans who are trying to replant the sources of their former livelihoods.
New initiatives are providing hope for the country’s fragile environment, such as the formation of a Restoration and Environment Working Group for Drought Mitigation in Afghanistan and the Green Afghanistan Initiative (GAIN).
GAIN aims at ‘Greening Afghanistan’ through a three-year project of providing alternative sustainable livelihoods through the creation of homes and community-based nurseries. Widows and other vulnerable Afghan groups will be assisted in developing private nurseries as an alternative source of income for the rural poor, who will be supported through a food-for-work and cash-based programs, while improving the Afghan terrain. Seven provincial training centre nurseries have already been established with a production goal of over 3.5 million saplings per year.
GAIN aims to further increase environmental awareness through education, which includes an environmental curriculum for primary students, a tree adoption program for school children, and training of environmental officers who will teach related educational programs within the communities. While Afghanistan becomes greener, thousands of Afghans will learn about environmental sustainability for the first time. With the partnership of the international community, and an economic incentive for environmentally-safe production techniques, Afghanistan may once again reclaim its reputation as Central Asia's orchard.