UN gardening scheme provides fresh start for Afghan women, ex-combatants

A girl in a potato field in Bamyan

28 April 2008 – A United Nations gardening and literacy project for Afghan women and ex-combatants seeks to pave the way to peace and prosperity in the war-torn nation.

Aimed at reversing environmental damage wrought by decades of conflict, uncontrolled grazing and illegal logging, the Green Afghanistan Initiative (GAIN) – run by six UN agencies, led by the World Food Programme (WFP) – will give participants the chance to make a fresh start through literacy classes and setting up their own nurseries to generate an income.

“These nurseries are making a huge difference to the lives of ordinary Afghan people and also to our environment,” said Obaidulla Ghafouri, the programme’s coordinator, at the GAIN's Heart centre, noting that rural communities and farmers’ livelihoods have been impacted by deforestation.

He noted that the nurseries provide regular jobs for ex-combatants and also for women, who can support their families with income earned while attending literacy classes.

More than 500 GAIN nurseries have been set up throughout Afghanistan since 2005, and by the end of this year, more than 5 million plant saplings will have been grown and over 1 million trees planted.

The country is prone to desertification, and this has been exacerbated by limited rainfall, mismanagement, abuse of natural resources, droughts, floods and population growth.

GAIN-backed provincial re-forestation centres – seeking to boost public awareness on the issue – will be established, serving as both agricultural knowledge centres and high-yield nurseries.

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