Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Gales Wreak Havoc

Freezing winds lay waste to farmland around the capital.
By Rahim Gul

For four years, Mohammad Asif’s grape farm sat on the frontline of the war of attrition between the Taleban and the Tajik resistance, north of Kabul.

After the Taleban’s rout in 2001, the farmer thought his troubles were over. But just as the grapes were beginning to flourish, earlier this month, a new enemy laid waste to his fields.

Freezing gale force winds, blowing down from the Hindu Kush mountains, have destroyed crops in a vast swathe of farmland around Kabul.

Farmers in Parwan, Logar and Kabul provinces were taken by surprise by the freak weather, and are now counting the cost.

Asif had six fields growing grapes in Taglar village, near Jabal-as-Saraj, “I have 1800 grape bushes and last year, I earned 4500 US dollars from them.” He told IWPR that he would be lucky to earn 400 US dollars this year, after the unseasonably icy wind ravaged his crops.

ISAF meteorology experts at Kabul airport said the gale, which blew over two days in early June, had a speed of 90 kilometres per hour and a temperature of minus 10 degrees Celsius.

Abdul Raqib, an official from the agriculture department in Parwan province, told IWPR that experts had been sent to survey the damage to crops in five districts – Charikar, Jebal-as-Saraj, Bagram and Ghorband. They reported that over two-thirds of the grape harvest in these areas had been destroyed.

Additionally, nearly 80 per cent of the vegetables grown there had also been rendered useless. Roughly half the cereal and wheat harvest was also decimated.

Another official from Parwan agriculture department, Awal Gul, confirmed that 800 apricot and mulberry trees in Ghorband had lost their fruit to the cold winds. The trees had only just begun to bear fruit, which were not mature enough to survive the plummeting temperature.

The same fate befell the grapes that are grown extensively throughout Parwan. According to local agricultural planning experts, the fragile young blossom simply froze and dried up in the cold wind. Worse still, this happened at a time when the grape harvest was just beginning to recover from years of war, which had ruined acres of fertile farmland.

The shock blow to this year’s grape harvest is also likely to dent Afghanistan’s considerable raisin exports. Adbul Salam Munir, head of raisin and fruit exports at the ministry of trade, told IWPR that he estimated this month’s wind could cut yield by nearly a half. “The production of raisins is 60,000 tons every year, but this year this wind could decrease the amount to 35,000 tons,” he said.

However, Munir said the government had 25,000 tons of raisins stockpiled from the previous year, so exports to Europe, USA, Russia and Asia would not be affected.

As well as Parwan, IWPR has also received reports of severely damaged crops from Kabul and Logar provinces.

Zameenullah Waseeq, from Khaki Jabar district, said his four-year-old apricot garden had just born its first fruits, when the cold wind dried it up. Naib Khan Nasiry, from Bie Azar village, said that more than half his grape crop had been damaged. And potato farmer Shafi Ullah, from Mohammad Agha district, said he had lost nearly 1000 US dollars worth of produce because of the cold spell.

Despite the reports of crop damage, a spokesman for the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Kabul office, Abdul Wahab, told IWPR that they had no information on the havoc wrought by the icy winds.

Rahim Gul Sarwan is an independent journalist in Kabul

More IWPR's Global Voices