Afghanistan Vouchers for Increased Productive Agriculture
AVIPA and AVIPA Plus were relief and stabilization programs funded by USAID and implemented by IRD in 32 provinces in Afghanistan during 2008–11. Working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock, AVIPA distributed vouchers for high-quality wheat seed and fertilizer at a reduced cost to vulnerable farmers suffering from prolonged drought. Farmers also received training in best wheat production practices. In 2009, USAID expanded AVIPA in scope and size, emphasizing stabilization within an agricultural framework in Helmand and Kandahar provinces. The goals of AVIPA Plus were to increase rural family farm production and productivity and to strengthen links between the Afghan government and its people. AVIPA Plus consisted of cash for work, small grants, agricultural vouchers, and training and capacity development for farmers. AVIPA and AVIPA Plus were Afghan-led: all project activities were coordinated with national, provincial, and district authorities and 95 percent of project staff members were recruited locally.
AVIPA Plus Wheat: During the 2009–10 wheat planting season, AVIPA Plus implemented the ministry’s Rapid Seed Distribution Program, distributing more than 18,000 tons of certified and quality-declared seed as well as nearly 55,000 tons of fertilizer to nearly 350,000 vulnerable farmers in 18 provinces. Farmers who redeemed vouchers also received training in best practices in wheat seed production; weed and pest control; and harvest, storage, and marketing.
Training: AVIPA Plus conducted a farm¬saved-seed program targeting 2,800 farmers to produce quality wheat seed on about 1,100 hectares. Using demonstration plots and participatory, farmer-to-farmer training methods, the farmer training program promoted better management practices, production technologies, and marketing strategies. Some of the training was delivered by radio.
National Seed Distribution: The third voucher distribution program was imple¬mented during September–March 2011 in support of the ministry’s National Seed Distribution Program (NSDP), supplying 13,000 tons of certified wheat seed and 39,000 tons of fertilizer to nearly 260,000 farmers. These inputs will have an estimated impact on more than 100,000 hectares of farmland with projected wheat production value of $60 million.
Mechanization: Even the relatively small amount of arable land in Afghanistan is underutilized due to a low level of mechanization. To help farmers transition to higher value crops, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock made farm mechanization a strategic goal of its National Agricultural Development Framework. To support this goal, AVIPA Plus implemented a large-scale promotion of two-wheel tractors. Each mechanization package consisted of a two-wheel tractor, cultivator, grain drill, reaper and trailer, having a combined market value of $4,000. Participating farmers were required to make a co-payment of 35 percent of the value of each package. The program distributed 6,000 two-wheel tractors and implements.
AVIPA Plus Stabilization through an Agricultural Framework: AVIPA Plus in Helmand and Kandahar provinces consisted of four programs: cash for work, small grants, agricultural vouchers, and training and capacity development for farmers. USAID selected six priority districts for implementation in Helmand; and Kandahar City and four other districts in Kandahar.
Cash for Work: CFW activities stimulated local economies and provided income for local farmers affected by violence and insurgent activity. CFW opened the way for other program activities while encouraging farmers to transition to licit crop production by providing capital to purchase inputs. CFW projects included road rehabilitation, canal cleaning, orchard maintenance, repair of water reservoirs, and construction of drying and storage facilities, among others.
Small Grants: Community small grants for ministry-approved farmer’s cooperatives allowed purchase of tractors, trailers, tractor blades, wheat threshers, maize shellers, and other implements.
Agriculture Vouchers: The vouchers program offered high-quality vegetables, forage, legume seeds, and fertilizers at a subsidized price. The program also distributed tools packages, greenhouse and shade kits, storage bags for dry grains and forage, and water pumps.
Training Capacity & Development: AVIPA Plus added value to the agri¬cultural voucher packages and small grants by training farmers and ministry extension agents to use these high-quality inputs. The training courses were specific to the voucher program, but also included animal husbandry, orchard management, and integrated pest management. AVIPA Plus also conducted training in the operation, maintenance, and safety of farm machinery. A phone-in radio program enabled farmers to discuss various agricultural topics with district extension agents and university experts.