AT-KABUL: The US Agency for International Development (USAID) on Wednesday announced a three-year extension to its (2010-2016) Commercial Horticulture and Agricultural Marketing Program (CHAMP) to widen its geographic coverage in Afghanistan and reach more international markets. The extension added nearly $16 million to the project’s previous budget of $46 million.
USAID Mission Director Herbert Smith noted that more than 80 percent of Afghans make their living in agriculture.
“Development of the agriculture sector is critical to the coordinated efforts of USAID and the government of Afghanistan to increase economic growth and improve the lives of the Afghan people,” Smith said.
CHAMP, implemented by the non-profit organization Roots of Peace, has facilitated the export of $51 million of fruits and nuts by aggressively targeting new markets in India and the United Arab Emirates, cultivating new buyers and expanding awareness for Afghan produce, USAID said in a statement.
It added under the extension, the program will focus on a wider variety of crops and develop new Central Asian markets. It also will undertake a grant program to establish or improve cold storage and packing facilities to enable Afghan food products to meet European import requirements.
“A few years ago, exporters could not find enough quality fruit that was up to international standards,” Roots of Peace President, Gary Kuhn, said.
“Afghan farmers are now producing better fruit due to years of USAID-funded projects such as CHAMP. Now we need to increase the value of the harvest and build new markets,” Kuhn added.
“There is a huge market in the Indian sub-continent, Southeast Asia, and the United Arab Emirates for Afghan produce,” said Abhey Misra, an Indian buyer.
“Afghanistan has improved quality and packaging. It has a good reputation and is known as 100 percent organic.”
Through the extension of CHAMP to 2019, USAID will continue to support and facilitate each stage of the agribusiness process, from farm to market, thereby creating jobs and improving livelihoods, the statement noted.
It is worth to mention with almost $17 billion spent on development programs in Afghanistan since 2002, USAID provides the largest bilateral civilian assistance program to Afghanistan. USAID partners with the government and people of Afghanistan to ensure economic growth led by the country’s private sector, to establish a democratic and capable state governed by the rule of law, and to provide basic health and education services for all Afghans.