Helmand's Department of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock said Wednesday they have begun to develop pistachio gardens as an alternative to poppy cultivation, and so far the plan is working well.
“The agriculture department focuses on those goods that can get to an international market, and that can be cultivated easily, and that is why we have selected pistachios because they need less water and also they are a good alternative to poppy,” said Zalmay Alko, head of of agriculture department.
Meanwhile, farmers say they can harvest 1,680 kilograms of pistachio from one-and-a-half acres of land.
“Pistachio gardens are irrigated with less water and there are less expenses, but the profit is greater than other crops. People are trying to create gardens but most of the people are not familiar with how to do it. Here we also grow pistachio saplings and people are taking them to other districts,” said Mohammad, a farmer.
Mohammad Lal, an owner of a pistachio garden that he created two years ago in Lashkargah city, is satisfied with the harvest.
“I worked for years in pistachio gardens in Iran and when I came to Helmand there were no pistachio gardens so then I started creating my own pistachio garden and now my garden produces pistachios and this year I sold a huge amount to someone and he exported them to Europe,” said Lal.
Gardeners say the pistachio gardens in the province have grown in recent years.
On the other hand, the Helmand provincial council, says poppy cultivation is prevalent in the province.
“All farmers in Helmand are familiar with poppy cultivation although they don’t receive much profit from it. The agriculture department did not take the necessary steps to prevent poppy cultivation and most of their work are not substantial and have not profited the people,” said Attaullah Afghan, head of the Helmand provincial council.
Helmand's agriculture department statistics show that up to three hundred large and small pistachio gardens have been created on 314 acres of land in the city and in provincial districts so far.