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Agriculture as a mainstay of economy

Like other South Asian countries, Afghanistan has been mired in the extreme vicious circle of poverty and widening urban-rural disparities. Over 60 percent people live below the poverty line. Half of them barely manage to eke out a living. A large number of people have started taking the road to EU, Australia and the United States in pursuit of economic opportunities besides peace and rule of law. The plus-three-decades wars have virtually destroyed the production and export sectors of the country. The dilapidated communication and transportation systems present a disappointing picture of country where still infrastructure remains poor and developmental projects are under attack. Though, agriculture is the mainstay of our national economy and 85 percent of the population is directly dependent on it, and as per estimates nearly 21.9 million people are associated with this sector, nevertheless this sector has been hit hard by droughts and government’s inattention. Moreover, many of the farmers have got attracted to poppy cultivation, which in no way could satisfy the definition of agriculture. If there are alternative programs, they could be accommodated back in agriculture.

To improve Afghanistan’s economy, focus should be paid towards the war-hit country’s agriculture sector. As we are a consumer country and import most of the goods from abroad, therefore, modernizing agriculture sector is a matter of great concern, and urgency. It will not only provide employment opportunities to thousands of people but would also strengthen the backbone of our economy.

As international community including a few of our neighbors are concerned about Afghanistan’s weakening economy and growing insecurity, hence, these countries can play a vital role in this regard while providing required technical assistance.

Last month, China donated 300 tractors with extra equipment to Afghanistan and dispatched a team of experts to support the agricultural production. Realizing importance of agriculture sector for Afghanistan, China’s Ambassador in Kabul, Deng Xijun, stressed on improvement of the production.

Being a concerned neighbor, China spotted the right area where Afghanistan needs support because agriculture accounts for over 20 percent of the GDP. To support Kabul in this aspect, Beijing and other donor countries should initiate necessary rehabilitation programs and send teams of agronomists. No doubt their presence will help the Afghan government to introduce new methods to increase crop production and improve livestock situation. Some of our allies, including India, have rich experience in agriculture sector. This experience will help Afghans to have sustainable agriculture and can provide an alternative to poppy. Increased narcotics production has puzzled many states. They have poured in huge amount to combat narcotics but the drives failed because farmers see poppy as cash crop, growing easily. If alternative crops like saffron have been introduced it would encourage the poppy growers to cultivate other crops and feed their families. Training of farmers and mechanizing of agriculture is important in this aspect.

It can also improve security because insecurity is linked to poverty. Scholarships to Afghans in the relevant field and establishment of an agricultural university would prove a milestone in this aspect.

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