CHAMP works to reduce poverty among rural Afghan farmers by helping them shift from relatively low-value safety crops, such as wheat and corn, to high-value perennial crops such as fruits and vegetables. CHAMP provides training in best agricultural practices, builds storage facilities such as cool rooms and raisin drying facilities and helps grape farmers convert from traditional ground-based vineyards to higher output trellis systems. CHAMP also helps stimulate farm exports by linking farmers to traders and traders to high-paying markets. CHAMP includes women in many of its activities in an effort to integrate them into the mainstream agricultural sector. CHAMP focuses heavily on post-harvest activities and marketing to boost exports, increase import substitution, and add value to products through post-harvest processing.
The program is divided into four main components:
Trellising Vineyards and New Orchards
Trellising vineyards significantly improves the harvest yield of grapes, both in quality and in quantity. In order to increase farmers’ income, CHAMP is trellising existing vineyards in the grape producing areas of Kabul, Parwan, Logar, Ghazni, Zabul, Helmand and Kandahar provinces. Traditionally in Afghanistan, vines are grown on the ground, but this can damage the quality of the grapes by putting them in direct contact with moisture and pests. This practice also eliminates sunlight penetration and airflow, which decreases the quantity of production. T-trellising systems consist of concrete poles running parallel to the vines and steel wires fixed over the poles. Each pole has a T-bar placed at the top, through which three wires are extended along the direction of the poles. This system, capable of supporting the load of the grapes, places the vines at a manageable height for the average sized adult. With this technique grapes grow in greater quantities and reach a higher quality. As trellised grapes stay off the ground, the harvested fruit does not contain dirt particles, resulting in a higher grading and ultimately higher market price. Trellised vines are exposed to more sunlight, which encourages growth and increases yields and quality. Trellising also protects plants from the effects of flooding and hail. The increased airflow around the vine decreases the likelihood of disease. The net result is a doubling of yields and an increase in quality.
Most fruit and nut production in Afghanistan is done using traditional methods that emphasize the quantity rather than the quality of the yield. Because of this, most Afghan fruit does not meet the specifications required by international markets for appearance and size. In addition, the volume produced does not meet the demand of the international market for a continuous supply throughout the year. CHAMP works to improve the quality of orchard produce through training in best horticultural practices and hrough direct technical assistance, Farmer Field Schools (FFS), training of trainers and government extension agents. Women were included in all phases of CHAMP training .
High Value Marketing and Agribusiness Development
In addition to improving the quality of orchards, CHAMP works to create a strong link between producers and traders to link Afghan produce to well paying international markets. CHAMP’s high value marketing component thus improves the potential for increasing the profits of Afghan farmers and marketing firms. Interventions target higher paying domestic markets and traditional export markets like India and Dubai, and non-traditional markets like Canada and Russia. These interventions include export trade promotion, business promotion and infrastructure projects such as raisin drying facilities and cool rooms that improve farmers’ ability to create export-quality produce, and allow producers to offer product at times when market conditions are most favorable. CHAMP also operates trade offices in Dubai and New Delhi to create stronger linkages between Afghan traders and overseas buyers. These offices ensure that Afghan traders are receiving the appropriate profit from the sales of their fruit. This provides a sustainable basis for growth in the value of exports to India and UAE.
While farming is generally a male-dominated occupation, women are involved in virtually all farming activities through their work on farms, stables and gardens. In homes where women serve as the head of the family they rely almost entirely on agricultural-related activities for their household income. CHAMP integrates women into many areas of its programming. In 2013, women participated in technical trainings aimed at improving their vineyards: trellising, apricot drying and farmer field schools.