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The Killid Group
War, neglect decimate Pista treesWritten by Mohammad Sabir/Baghdis
Saturday, 29 October 2011 10:56
Afghanistan's famous pistachio trees are being cut for fuel. Unless the government provides an alternative, everything could be lost.
Mullah Samander in his fifties was in tears as he raised an axe to chop down a pista tree in an orchard in Badghis province. "I start to weep, I cannot control my tears when I cut pista trees," he said between sobs.
Mullah Samandar said he is poor and jobless. "I have no chance of finding a job. We forage in the forest, looking for wild vegetables to eat."
The pista trees are used as fuel wood.
Poverty and conflict has laid to waste forests and orchards all over the country.
In Nangarhar, acres of olive groves and orange orchards were chopped down in the early 1980s - during the years the Mujahedin fought to oust the communist government headed by Najibullah. Over the last 30 years of almost continuous war an estimated 40 percent of the 450,000 hectares of land under pistachio trees, grown mainly in Badghis and Samandar province, were destroyed, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Gul Ahmad Arifi, former director of agriculture in Badghis, believes that the province's earnings from pista have reduced by half. In 2008, 2,500 tonnes were harvested in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is the world's seventh largest producer of pistas in a market that is dominated by Iran. Yet Afghan pistas are valued higher than those produced in Iran because they are grown organically and without chemicals.
The pistachio is a small tree that grows to about 10 metres. Originally from the cooler parts of modern day Iran, for centuries it had played an important role in Afghan life, according to the Environment News Service. The harvest, usually in September, was a major festival known as Shole-e-Pista.
Recently, the government has drafted a new law for the protection of high value crops like pistachios, which has been sent to parliament for approval.
Former director of agriculture, Arifi, says trees will continue to be cut for fuel unless the government provides alternate fuel. Every year some 200 hectares of pista orchards are destroyed. The department of agriculture has a skeletal force of roughly 100 guards to protect the groves from vandals and local commanders who pick the crop before it is ripe and then sell the nuts and keep the money for themselves, according to media reports.
Need alternative cooking fuel
Local officials confirm pistachio farming is under threat. Abdul Ghani Saberi, the deputy provincial governor of Badghis, told Killid the provincial governor and community elders had left for Kabul to discuss the crisis with President Hamid Karzai. "President Karzai has promised to solve the problem of serious shortage of cooking fuel. He has promised to provide coal from the Sabzak coal mine in Badghis," he says.
There's also talk of Turkmenistan providing electricity to people in Badghis province. The US has allocated 4 million dollars for the project.
Ghulam Haider Haideri, in charge of the provincial Environment Department, says they are finalising plans to transfer responsibility of public forest land to local people. People will be enrolled in forest protection and revitalisation, he says.
Arifi, the former director, backs the move. "As long as community elders and residents of the areas are responsible, they no longer cut forests. The government should persuade them to plant new saplings every year and provide them with facilities". For instance, it takes 10 years for a pistachio plant to reach maturity, and half a day to saw it into firewood.
Abdul Mujib Shikeb, who is a provincial council member in Badghis, says the root of the problem facing pistachio cultivation is the insecurity. The government has to establish control and law and order. In fact, after the fall of the Taleban, senior government officials are involved in cutting forests, Mujib Shikeb says.
Meanwhile, the 70-year-old Abdul Raziq Atif, Badghis farmers' representative, accuses the forest guards of destroying the forests they have been employed to protect. He alleges that they take money to let people cut down trees.
Government officials complain salaries are poor, and forest guards are ill equipped. They cannot fight armed tribesmen and locals, they say. The fear is that by the time the authorities wake up to the crisis, everything would be lost.
Wednesday, 07 May 2014 03:36 |
I AM TRYING TO GET THE PISTA PLANT FROM SEED BUT I COULDN'T GERMINATE . IF I AM TRYING TO GERMINATE FROM THE SEED IT IS GOING TO ROTTEN IN REFRIGERATER HOW TO SOLVE IT. IF U HAVE ANY IDEA LET ME KNOW.