Fruits of Daily Labor
ARGHANDAB, Kandahar – Afghanistan was once known around the world for its pomegranates, grapes, apricots, and plums. But decades of conflict left many of its orchards and vineyards in ruins, crippling fruit exports and contributing to widespread unemployment. Orchards throughout southern Afghanistan are bouncing back thanks to a USAID project which is distributing more than 1 million fruit tree saplings to farmers in Kandahar and Helmand provinces.
The IRD-managed Southern Regional Agricultural Development (S-RAD) program also provides short-term jobs to nearly 4,000 laborers who are planting the saplings and rehabilitating damaged orchards.
The workers are trained in pruning and horticultural methods. Saplings are procured through local government-approved nurseries and inspected to ensure they are of the highest quality.
At a distribution center in Arghandab district, Kandahar province, farmers stand in the morning sun waiting to receive saplings, while in another line laborers eagerly await opportunities to work on their farms.
Twenty-year-old Husain Shah is a day laborer by trade. Like most itinerant workers he hires himself out to clean canals and help at harvest time. But it’s an unstable source of income, with work often hard to come by.
“One month of employment means a lot when you don't know from one day to the next whether you'll have work,” he says. “And it's good to work on a project that you know is benefitting local farmers.”
Workers like Shah are vulnerable to recruitment by the insurgency. The short-term jobs provided by S-RAD draw thousands of fighting-age men away from illicit activity, encouraging greater stability in the region.
S-RAD is managed by IRD with funding from USAID.