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Afghan Bamiyan people turn to potato-growing to make a living

Feature: Afghan Bamiyan people turn to potato-growing to make a living

Afghan farmers work at a potato farm in Bamyan province, central Afghanistan, Oct. 23, 2018. The picturesque Bamiyan province with its beautiful landscape has been a popular tourist destination in the conflict-ridden Afghanistan over the past decades, and growing potatoes in recent years has added to Bamiyan's natural charm. (Courtesy: Xinhua/Noor Azizi)

October 25, 2018
The picturesque Bamiyan province with its beautiful landscape has been a popular tourist destination in the conflict-ridden Afghanistan over the past decades, and growing potatoes in recent years has added to Bamiyan's natural charm.

Abdul Wahab Mohammadi, director of the agriculture department in the provincial capital of Bamiyan city"

"Growing potatoes in the central Bamiyan province has become the source of income for the more than 60,000 farmers here."
The mountainous Bamiyan, according to its dwellers, is a natural prison, a reference to its geographical location which is surrounded by mountains and rocky hilltops.

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An Afghan farmer carries a sack of potatoes in Bamyan province, central Afghanistan, Oct. 23, 2018. (Courtesy: Xinhua/Noor Azizi)

Regarded as the safest province in the insurgency-plagued Afghanistan's 34 provinces, the mountainous and naturally isolated Bamiyan has also been among the poorest provinces since the collapse of the Taliban regime in late 2001.

The region has arable lands, streams, pastures and plateaus, suitable for growing potatoes and animal husbandry.

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Afghan farmers carry sacks of potatoes in Bamyan province, central Afghanistan, Oct. 23, 2018. (Xinhua/Noor Azizi) (Courtesy: Xinhua/Noor Azizi)

At present, farmers in Bamiyan grow about 20 to 25 tons of potatoes from one hectare of land, Mohammad said, adding if the farmers are supported by better seeds, research and fertilizer, they can harvest up to 60 to 65 tons of potatoes per hectare.

Abdul Wahab Mohammadi:

"Farmers in Bamiyan are expected to harvest 340,000 to 350,000 tons of potatoes this year, although the drought has affected the potato cultivation."
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Afghan farmers unload sacks of potatoes to a warehouse in Bamyan province, central Afghanistan, Oct. 23, 2018. (Courtesy: Xinhua/Noor Azizi)

Bamyan resident Mohammad Karim:

"Potato plantations have changed our living conditions over the past 10 years.”

“Bamiyan has a cold climate which is not suitable for growing rice or wheat, but it's suitable for growing potatoes.”
Bamiyan resident Ghulam Ali

“Presently, the price of one sir (7 kg) of potatoes is about 80 afghani (1.06 U.S. dollar) at the local market.”
He harvested about 750 sir (5,250 kg) of potatoes, and is hopeful to earn about 800 U.S. dollars at his doorstep this year.

While the insurgency-battered country produces much of the world's opium, Bamiyan remains poppy-free over the past decade and half.

To encourage potato cultivation and find market for the product, the provincial administration has been holding "Potato blossom Agricultural festival" annually to put on display a variety of potatoes and potato products.

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An Afghan farmer works at a potato farm in Bamyan province, central Afghanistan, Oct. 23, 2018. (Courtesy: Xinhua/Noor Azizi)

Popular for its quality and taste, Bamiyan potatoes are not only sold to other Afghan provinces but also exported to neighboring Pakistan and Tajikistan, Mohammadi said with pride.
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