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Rebuilding Afghanistan's Agricultural Economy: Vegetable Production in Balkh Province
Abstract and Figures
The recovery of Afghanistan's agricultural economy has been delayed by a devastated infrastructure and diminished human capacity. The authors describe the challenges and opportunities to increase agricultural capacity, using vegetable production in Balkh province as a case study. The most widely grown vegetable crops in the province are aubergine, melon, onion, tomato and watermelon, and most of them are marketed locally. There is great potential to expand vegetable production due to the arid climate, favourable soils and an industrious and abundant workforce. However, production and market expansion cannot be realized unless better field production and management methods are implemented. Increased vegetable product quality and quantity depend on improved water and fertility management, use of vegetable cultivars best suited to the arid climate and environment, development of cold storage facilities and improved pest control methods. Drought conditions, exacerbated by inefficient water use, constitute the most significant constraint to vegetable production in Balkh province and elsewhere in Afghanistan. In particular, plant diseases such as Phytophthora blight, which are manifested during the growing season, often stem from excessive irrigation in the spring when water is available. Until a more broadly functional means of distributing water becomes available, on-farm practices that improve water management represent the best opportunity to improve farmers' livelihoods.
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