Women’s Tree Project Takes Root in Central Afghanistan

Published on 04 August 2009

The women of Dara Azhdar have plenty to smile about after planting 2,500 saplings in their sun-scorched community.

Copyright WFP/Susannah Nicol

Poised on the edge of Bamyan town’s imposing rock formation, Dara Azhdar is no ordinary Afghan community. Not only is its only Shura, or local council, a women’s Shura, but these women have launched a tree planting project, aimed to improve their community and the environment, with help from the World Food Programme.

BAMYAN – Every summer, the sun beats down and the dust kicks up in Dara Azhdar, home to around 450 families. The community of returnees and internally displaced people first arrived in this harsh environment four years ago.

And since the men didn’t establish a Shura, very little was done to improve matters -- until the women took action.

“For the sake of our health, the environment, providing shade and as measures against soil erosion, we needed to plant trees,” says Zainab Rezayee, who heads the women’s Shura.

Food for trees

When Rezayee heard that WFP was involved in tree planting programmes, she called for a Shura meeting. The women decided that rather than wait for the men to act, they would do the work needed to make Dara Azhdar more habitable.

WFP accepted their proposal and in March the women began planting the trees as part of WFP’s Food-For-Work programme, with support from Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock. Today, 2500 saplings line Dara Azhdar’s streets and grow outside the local mosque, which doubles as a community centre.

Proud of their work

The women water and tend the trees, using water flowing through irrigation pipes from natural springs above the rocks -- the community’s only water source.

They are responsible for the trees immediately outside their houses, as well as some in communal areas which are marked by pieces of coloured cloth.

“The women here are proud to have set an example by showing what can be achieved with a little grit and determination,” Rezayee says, “and with the added incentive of food.” 

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Susannah Nicol

Spokesperson for Somalia

Susannah worked for WFP in Afghanistan for 1 year before moving to East Africa. She is based in Nairobi.