Where You’d Least Expect It

November 16th, 2009 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off

simchThumbAfghanistan has been involved in wars since the early 1970’s. By all accounts, it is pretty much a war-torn country, and most images that we see nightly on the news support this. It is an extremely poor and barren country, and the prospects for recovery seem pretty grim for the near future. And, while it’s difficult to find much good news coming out of Afghanistan, there is at least one glimmer of hope with the Agriculture for Peace Project. This project was started by Afghan Khazan Gul, who after studying abroad in Germany, returned to his country in 1973 focused on helping to rebuild his homeland. According to the Current Concerns website:

Working for peace has to start with the basic needs of the poor in the countryside. The project presented here, a farming school in the province of Khost in South East Afghanistan, follows this proposition. Initiator is the Afghan Khazan Gul. As a young man, he had the opportunity to study in Germany. After finishing his studies of Physics and Mathematics at the University of Frankfurt, he returned to his country in 1973. Since then he has been engaged in developing the educational system and fostering agricultural self-sufficiency.

kabulKhazan Gul describes the current situation of the country population in Khost province: “Generally, people are very poor, living mostly in the mountains. So far they have been living on the woods. They have been deforested and sold. Today, the woods have almost disappeared. Due to the war, there is little perspective and not much chance for economic development. Since honor demands of family heads to be able to feed the extended family, many men go to war as mercenaries. Misery drives them to join various warlords as fighters. Against this backdrop, it appears particularly meaningful to foster small farming, because, if a family, a clan or a tribe is able to feed themselves, it will not be possible to abuse them in the interest of a third party.” . . . this is why this farming project is promoting peace.

At the farming school, the students – farmers and farmers-to-be – are taught both the basic skills of reading and writing and special skills needed for farming: building irrigation systems, crop farming and animal breeding. A farm affiliated with the school will allow them to apply what they have learned. The goal is developing an educated and independent network of farmers, some of who later will be able to teach other farmers. Since fortunately there are no large estates in the region and each family owns some land, the acquired skills can be applied in practice immediately.

Why a school for organic farming? Peace depends on freedom and independence. Hence, development must be based on local resources. Synthetic fertilizers and plant protective agents have to be imported, thus creating new dependencies. In this project, organic farming means a method of producing food with local means and resources.

Since material goods are lacking in Afghanistan and most relief supplies just come as far as the capital Kabul and never into the remote and dangerous (for foreigners) regions as the province of Khost, Khazan Gul visits his friends in Europe looking for support for his projects. During his recent stay in Switzerland, he defined his circle of friends as follows: “All people who want a world without war are my friends”. But then he also added that we have to work for a world without war and cannot sit waiting for it. In Switzerland, a circle of friends has formed who vigorously support the work of Khazan Gul. The association named “Friends of Afghanistan” is raising funds for the project with various activities. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (DEZA) also approved the project and is supporting it. Technically, the project is supported by various organic farmers and specialists of Bio Suisse, by the Centre for Education and Consulting in Arenenberg and by the Research Institute for Organic Farming, FiBL.

The goal is developing an educated and independent network of farmers, some of who will later be able to teach other farmers.

A challenging project? indeed.  A beautiful vision worth our support? Absolutely.

If you would like to support Agriculture for Peace, their website link is:

http://www.freundeskreis-afghanistan.ch/

The site has been run through Google Translator and converted from German to English.



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