More than 1,700 Afghans sang, danced, and sampled their way through Helmand Province’s first Agricultural fair in August 2007. Known as AgFair, the fair was the largest public event in recent memory in the province.
Held at the Bolan Women’s and Children’s Park in Lashkar Gah, the fair showcased the province’s agricultural products. More than 100 exhibitors from Helmand and surrounding areas participated, including equipment manufacturers, veterinary health agencies, livestock and poultry businesses, fertilizer and seed dealers, farming cooperatives, carpet weavers, and handicraft organizations.
The exhibitions provided local farmers information on new techniques and technologies to increase yields and productivity of licit agricultural activities in the heavily poppy-growing region.
The fair also offered more light-hearted attractions. Fair-goers could partake in cultural activities and watch performances by a national drumming and dance group, popular singer Shah Gull, and a children’s choir. A raffle was held to give away a walking tractor kit, a cow, and three generators. And three exhibitors won all-expenses paid trips to the upcoming national AgFair based on the quality of their displays.
The fair was a welcome celebration as Helmand struggles to emerge from decades of violence and war. “This is the first time in 25 years I've been back to Lashkar Gah,” said Ahmad, a trader from Kandahar. “This event has given people a reason to return to Lashkar Gah.”
The Helmand AgFair was inspired by the runaway success of a similar fair held in Kabul earlier this year that drew up to 60,000 visitors. Both fairs were organized by USAID-funded projects — the Accelerating Sustainable Agriculture Program put on the April fair in Kabul, and the Alternative Development Program South coordinated the Helmand event with a variety of local partners including local government and the provincial offices of the ministries of culture, women’s affairs, and agriculture, irrigation, and livestock.
The projects are planning more fairs to be held around the country in upcoming months.