The project and its partners recently reached a major milestone — the export of tons of fruit throughout the region. Pomegranates are widely regarded as a “wonder fruit” for their proven health benefits. But to many farmers in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province, the true wonder of pomegranates is measured by the economic future that the fruit provides.
One such farmer, Haji, 50, said that before he planted pomegranates, he and his 13 children lived in relative poverty, farming grapes and opium poppies, depending on the season.
Then, the USAID-funded Alternative Development Program-South
encouraged Haji to construct a small pomegranate orchard. He joined 263 families working with the Kandahar Orchards Project and was assisted in fruit grading, sorting, packaging, shipping, and introduction to overseas buyers.
The orchards project is working with local farmers to get the international recognition they need to expand their market opportunities. In the first weeks of the project’s harvest, 10 tons of pomegranates were flown to wholesalers in Dubai. More than 400 additional tons had been slated for export before the end of the growing season in 2007. And buyers throughout Asia and the Middle East are asserting that Afghan pomegranates are among the best in the world.
“Everybody who knows fruit knows that Kandahar pomegranates are the best,” said Haji.
The Kandahar Orchards Project has selected another 250 orchards for rehabilitation, and more sites are being surveyed daily. Haji can see that with more overseas sales, more income will come to his household and village, and that the “wonder fruit” of Kandahar will help bring prosperity and hope for peace to his country.