President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday said the enemy wanted to keep the Afghans busy on the security front, but they should join hands for promoting agriculture -- the cornerstone of the country’s long-term stability.
Inaugurating an agricultural and industrial expo at the Presidential Palace, he said: “Agriculture is basis for stability; we can’t meet people’s needs without modernising agriculture. Besides physical security, we also need food security without which we can’t work.”
Ghani added most of Afghan youth had only limited access to food while their soldiers were dwarfed by malnourishmentin childhood. It was the responsibility of the government to facilitate youth’s full access to food, he acknowledged.
Currently, agricultural products worth more than $3 billion were imported into the country each year -- a drag for the economy as much of the national wealth was spent on only eating food, he argued.
Ghani continued the government had been working on, and should pay more attention to, water management, improved seed varieties, agricultural tools, farmers and workers, role of women and marketing for domestic products.
“Forty percent of our irrigation water is wasted on-streams. None of the rivers is properly utilised; we are using old methods of irrigation,like the Karez system, and we could not modernise the irrigation system. I promise better water managementin the next four years,” the president said.
Dr. Qayyumi, the chancellor of one of the biggest universities of America, was in Afghanistan to streamline the irrigation system, he said, adding the expert had vowed to resolve the problems to some extent in the next four years.
Ghani asked all government departments concerned to help utilise all available water resources because it could not be managed without investment from the government, he maintained.
The cultivable land of the current government had been less than the non-cultivable portion during former president Daud Khan’s administration, he explained.It is government responsibility to register its properties, he said while stressing curbs on land-grab incidents.
Improved seed varieties:
“Currently there is only 10 percent of improved seeds varieties in the country while we need to import 600,000 tonnes of wheat,” he revealed, calling the heavy importsa colossal loss for the country.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) has to pay more attention to preparing policy for improved seed varieties, he suggested.
Role of female agriculturists
Women in remote villages could play an important role in boosting agricultural production; they should be encouraged and proper plans devised for their empowerment, he said.
A vital element of agriculture is grower; so growers should be supported and cooperative societies established. The quality of agriculture products should be paid more attention, he said.
Sorting, packing and processing of agriculture produces should be standardised, he pointed out, saying concrete steps be initiated to connect cities with villages.Most of the population is living in the cities.
He insisted on the consumption of domestic products by all Afghans, saying most of the people were using foreign items. He is ready to work on a plan to promote the use the domestic products by the security personnel.
He asked the ministries of finance and commerce to identify hurdles to Afghan products reaching the international market and take necessary steps for resolving the problems. Cultivation of saffron,if it is paid more attention, can be an alternative to poppy cultivation.
He also asked farmers, orchard owners and traders to cooperate with each otherin boosting the agriculture sector. “Let’s work for stability and give a clear message to the enemies of the country that we believe in ourselves to rebuild the country.”
First Lady Bibi Gul Ghani also addressed the gathering, stressing improvement of agriculture could play a curtail role in the security and stability of the country.
If half of the population (females) wanted to improve national affairs, they should work shoulder to shoulder with men for Afghanistan’s development on a fast-track, she opined.
MAIL MinisterAsadullah Zameer said some agriculture products had registered an increase this year and the ministry was trying to facilitate farmers and orchard owners in the area of marketing. Growers and orchard owners from all over the country have displayed their products at 200 stalls as part of the exhibition in Kabul, a good chance for them to market their products.