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Is it possible to reforest Afghanistan?

World Vision
13 June 2017 by Brian Hilton
Is it possible to reforest Afghanistan?

Typical treeless mountain landscape in Bagdhis Province.

Is it possible to reforest a desert?

Western Afghanistan is a semi-arid area that relies on moisture from snowfall. It is cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Due to the acute needs for heating in the winter and construction, trees have been removed from the mountains. In Afghanistan schools close in the winter as without lots of heating it is impossible to study. Afghanis are poor and they have limited resources to do the arduous task of reforestation in this harsh environment.

Snow melt and a few light winter rains are the only water in this near desert environment.

Snow melt and a few light winter rains are the only water in this near desert environment.

But is reforestation really that difficult?

To even consider the big job of reforestation consultation with the community must occur. World Vision investigates all of the issues related to growing trees with the community from hungry sheep to lack of water during the hot summers. World Vision conducts interviews with older farmers who can remember planting trees on the mountains. Trees in Western Afghanistan have been absent from the mountains for so long that only the oldest farmers remember. Then the few trees that would grow in those desert like conditions are identified. World Vision sent their tree expert Tony Rinaudo to Afghanistan to see if reforestation was really a possibility. Tony has experience reforesting in dry places in Africa like Niger a place where many people thought reforestation was impossible so he was the right person for another impossible place – Afghanistan.

Two trees and one shrub that could play a role in reforestation were identified, Prosopis cineraria and Ailanthus altissima:

Prosopis cineraria growing without irrigation.

Prosopis cineraria growing without irrigation.

Tony demonstrating how pruning could improve growth Ailanthus altissima or ‘Tree‐of‐heaven (locally known as Russian Ash next to a valley stream.

Tony demonstrating how pruning could improve growth Ailanthus altissima or ‘Tree‐of‐heaven (locally known as Russian Ash next to a valley stream).

Training also occurs within World Vision Afghanistan. It is necessary that both farmers and staff believe that it can be done. In this way Afghani staff implementing the program “catch” the vision. World Vision Afghanistan staff then take that vision and put it into their own Afghani context and make plans for making a dream into a reality.

Tony Rinaudo with Bismellah Hazara community leader and tree planter in Abkarmari district

Tony Rinaudo with Bismellah Hazara community leader and tree planter in Abkarmari district

The process of consultation continues. Tony Rinaudo, looks for Afghanis on the field visits, who could be key implementers or champions in the future. There are people in the community who are still planting trees when others are cutting trees down like Bismellah Hazara.

Trees on a steep slope in mountain pass depicting what the mountains could look like.

Trees on a steep slope in mountain pass depicting what the mountains could look like.

While Western Afghanistan, due to its dryness will never support a dense forest it may be possible to recreate a woodland that would reduce soil erosion in the mountains and provide some fuel and pole wood for a very needy population. In addition since the pistachio is one of the trees identified which could grow on the mountains, pistachio nut production could also help get Afghani farmers out of poverty.

Brian Hilton Brian Hilton

Brian is a Food Security Advisor for World Vision Australia

 

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