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Saffron cultivation helps Kandahar farmersWritten by Abdul Ghafar Kaker
Sunday, 19 December 2010 10:44
Farmers in the Daman district of Kandahar are taking to saffron cultivation in increasing numbers, part of the effort to replace poppy cultivation in the area.
With the help of the Arghandab Irrigation Rehabilitation Project (AIRP), 8 farmers were trained in saffron cultivation over the last season in the Herat province. These farmers who have now returned to Daman, have trained a further 40 farmers in the techniques of saffron cultivation, according to the Chief of the Daman district, Haji Sirajudin.
Afghanistan accounts for over 90% of the world's production of opium and 98% of the country's cultivation is concentrated in the southern and western regions, according to the United Nations Organisation for Drugs and Crime(UNODC). The UN agency's September survey of poppy cultivation showed it has increased in the province of Kandahar, up by 30%.
In the efforts to wean farmers away from poppy cultivation, AIRP has been supporting the training of farmers, distributing seeds, and providing support for marketing.
Sirajuddin said AIRP had distributed four tons of saffron seeds amongst 250 farmers of the area and this had yielded a good crop. He also said that the saffron was of a good quality and had fetched high prices in the Dubai market.
"Our saffron is being sold for $5000 per kilo whereas the saffron from other areas is sold for half that price", he said, adding that there was great demand for the Daman saffron amongst traders.
Most of Daman's farmers who cultivated saffron in their farms seemed to be happy with the outcome and said they had made good profits this year. They planned to grow saffron in the next season as well.
60 year-old Azimi, a local farmer, said that he had made more money this year than ever before.
"I have spent my whole life in farming and have had many harvests of different crops, but the earning from the saffron harvest this year was so good that it is enough for my family and any other expenses."
A resident of Daman District Obaidullah says that farmers were facing with shortage of water in their locality, but saffron cultivation required less water.
"On the one hand we will need less water and on the other, the gains are more. Those who farmed saffron this year seem happy. I think people in Daman and in other districts will cultivate saffron in the coming season."
Officials of Daman District said that they had other agricultural plans for the development of agriculture next year which will reduce poppy cultivation and strengthen the local economy.
Sirajuddin said that AIRP had plans to introduce mint cropping in the area. "We also plan to start courses for raising public awareness for keeping honey bees."
Agriculturalists experts say that saffron is a good crop for Afghans in many ways, but that the land should be evaluated before cultivation to ensure that it is suitable for the crop.
Dr. Shah Muhammad Barai, the Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture in Kandahar University, said Kandahar's climate was very suited to saffron cultivation. "There is no concern in this regard; farmers can cultivate saffron, but saffron cultivation has its own method. If it is grown in the correct way it will have good production."