Planting Seeds for Tomorrow

Raihan and her father Karim always have a hard time growing crops in their home village, where the altitude is 3,000 metres, and the land is often affected by flooding and droughts.

In Afghanistan’s Central Highlands, fruit and vegetable seeds are difficult to find. Farmers rely on crops they know will grow in the harsh climate. Their diet is centred on three things: bread, potatoes, and tea. However, living on such an unbalanced, nutrient deficient diet can lead to chronic malnutrition. More than half the region’s children are paying the price with stunted growth.

Medair teaches women like Raihan how to grow, cultivate, and preserve vegetables in their own kitchen gardens. “Before I started growing these vegetables, we could only buy lettuce and onion in the local market. The market didn’t even have seeds,” Raihan says.

“This year we made our garden two times bigger than last year. We really like the vegetables.” Karim, an elderly man with kind eyes, points out where the garden has been made bigger. “We usually use this land for potatoes,” he says. “This year we are using it for more vegetables.”

Working as a team, Raihan and her father chat to one another as he digs holes in each row of soil and she follows behind, carefully lifting the bright green vegetable seedlings from a big bowl she carries under her arm and dropping them into the soil.

Kitchen gardens are giving families in remote areas a long-term source of vitamins and nutrients that will help prevent chronic malnutrition.

“We used to be starving between the harvests of potatoes and wheat,” said Niqbar, a kitchen gardener from a nearby village. “Last year we had vegetables in every season. My son even took the extras to school.”

“You see my beard; it is very white,” says Karim. “In all the years that I have had a beard, there has never been an NGO in this village. Medair is the first.”

Medair also helps reduce soil erosion on agricultural land. Vulnerable farmers earn money to build check dams and contour trenches that reduce the risk of flooding and increase water infiltration into the soil. We teach farmers how to irrigate their land and identify pests and disease so their wheat and potatoes will grow better.

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