A food-for-assets project in Eastern Afghanistan provides displaced people and widows the chance to earn a living - while helping to make the country green.
The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, estimates that more than 300,000 people are currently internally displaced in Afghanistan. Uprooted and often without means to support themselves, many Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are vulnerable and in need of assistance.
In Eastern Afghanistan’s Nangahar province, WFP, in close cooperation with the local governmental Department for Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, has been looking for ways to enable vulnerable internally displaced women to become more self-sufficient. Through a local Food-for-Assets project, WFP ensures participants acquire skills and work on a project which benefits both the women themselves and the wider community.
45-year-old Balqisa is the mother of eight children. She lost her husband several years ago when a rocket hit their house in Tagab district of Kapisa province in eastern Afghanistan. She moved to eastern Nangahar province with her kids and is now living in a camp for internally displaced people near Jalalabad city, close to the border with Pakistan.
Balqisa is among 70 women and 50 men who have found jobs in a WFP-supported plant nursery in the Behsud district of Nangahar province. For one year they have been working four hours a day in return for a monthly ration of wheat, pulses, salt and vegetable oil.
Balqisa and her coworkers have cultivated more than 450,000 saplings on 18 hectares of land. The plants include tangerine, orange and olive trees, as well as different types of ornamental trees.
“I take care of these small saplings as though they were my babies,” says Balquisa. “I’m happy to be working in the nursery. I am contributing to making my country green again, I am helping my people, and I can feed my family.”
Shereen Gul, 35, works alongside Balquisa at the nursery. She is also a widow, and explains that many women here have lost their husbands and are responsible for feeding their families. “I am grateful to WFP; this project really helped us in supporting our families, and we are receiving the food on time.”
Shawkatullah runs the nursery project for the government’s Department of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock. ”Without support from WFP we would not be able to run this project,” he says. “In this nursery we have 150,000 olive trees, 300,000 range, 50,000 ornamentals and a number of tangerines trees. This is all because of WFP and its donors,” Shawkatullah adds.
In March 2012, WFP arranged the last distribution of 14.7 metric tons of wheat, pulses, vegetable oil and salt for the participants of this project – commodities which WFP was able to provide thanks to generous contributions from the Governments of Japan, Poland and the USA.