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The Killid Group
Drought threatens crops and livestock in BalkhWritten by Sayed Zaher Adeli
Saturday, 02 July 2011 14:57
A dry winter followed by lack of rain threatens crop failure for the farmers in the Northern province of Balkh, a fact confirmed to Killid by provincial officials.
Farmer Abdul Qader has cultivated approximately 210 kgs of wheat on his land, but believes that his entire crop has been destroyed because of a lack of water. Ghulam Haidar, another farmer, has both irrigated and rain-fed land. He has now turned his rain-fed land into animal pasture because of the lack of rains. "Though I have planted crop on my irrigated lands I am not sure that it will be enough for my family's needs." Haider says his land yielded as much as 2450 kgs of wheat last year, but this year he expects his harvest will not be even a fourth of that.
Even pasture land has been hit hard by the lack of rain with inadequate feed for the livestock which have been evident in the falling prices in the livestock markets in the province.
The head of Balkh Agriculture and Livestock Directorate, Kateb Shams, says: "Though more than 100862 hectares of irrigated land and approximately 73366 hectares of rain-fed land are under cultivation this year, many of crops face failure because of the lack of adequate water and the lack of rainfall." Shams says that the volume of water in the Balkhab river which rises from the Band-e-amir lakes in Central Afghanistan is not adequate for the irrigation needs of the province.
Balkh requires specific water conservation projects like a dam at the Chasm-e-Shafa on the outskirts of Mazar-e-Sharif and desalting of the canal Khosh Tappa. Though provincial officials have been asking for these measures, he says, the central government has failed to act. These two projects, he says, could meet a major part of the water requirements.
Balkh has been poppy free since 2007 after a determined campaign led by provincial government. However the province showed a spike in the cultivation of cannabis. While UNODC's winter crop assessment suggested Balkh would remain poppy free in 2011 as well, this status could well be threatened if there are no steps to support the largely agricultural community.
Shams however provided assurance that there would be no shortage of wheat. Not only does the provincial government have a large stock of wheat but the wheat which was ready for release in the market when required. In addition the wheat provided by donors as well as the possibility of importing wheat from other countries would prevent a shortage and high prices.