70-year-old Farid (pictured) has lived his whole life in Samangan, a province in the north of the country whose population overwhelmingly depend on the land and livestock for their food and income. Farid and his son cultivate a small area of land and keep goats to provide for their extended family of 15.

In Samangan's quiet villages - camouflaged amongst beige, dusty landscapes and often days travel from the nearest city - the experiences of rural families like Farid's are often vastly different from those living in urban centres. For them, life has also changed dramatically since the Taliban takeover in 2021, but not necessarily for the same reasons.

"In the past few years, the government has changed, but for many people in this area, they'd say the most significant change to their daily lives since 2021 has been the weather," an Afghanaid social organiser explained. "It's been so dry, we've had drought for many years. A lot of families have been moving to provinces with more rainfall or snow in the hope it will improve their situations."

Though there is undoubtedly worry in these areas about the education of their daughters, the fear of retribution, and uncertainty about the future, amidst drought, the matter of growing enough food for their families has been the main concern. This is because, for communities like Farid's, the climate crisis isn’t a distant threat - it’s already here, and it's already making their lives incredibly hard. 

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With drought, comes flood

"I remember when this whole area used to be filled with rich green valleys," Farid recalled, "this area is called Samangan's vegetable basket, because so much of the produce from here fills the bazaars. But, it has become very dry here, so it has been harder to grow what we used to."

In the past 4 years, consecutive droughts have resulted in a food crisis, where huge amounts of the population have been struggling to put food on the table, or feed or water their animals. "Because of the droughts, some of my animals died. Luckily my son still has some, but it has been tough."

From multi-year droughts to enormous flash flooding, in Afghanistan, the climate crisis is being experienced primarily as a water crisis. And these two types of disasters cruelly intersect: rain deprived land desperately needs water, but because it is parched, when rain comes, the dry land cannot absorb it quick enough, meaning it runs too quickly on the surface and devastates communities. Additionally, years of conflict and deforestation is contributing to this land degradation, meaning the scale of flash flooding is really acute.

"The floods come when it rains. In this village, our houses are just below the hillside, so when the water comes big rocks also fall and hurt people. The rocks also make it even harder to grow crops."

What are trenches, gully plugs and check dams, and what have they got to do with climate resilience?

Left: a villager walking past trenches, which are holes dug into the hillside; Middle: a row of gully plugs, which are walls made up of rocks in wire baskets; Right: a man walking across a check dam, a wall constructed across a water channel so slow its speed.

Our work is aimed at slowing down water - we like to say making running water walk.

Charles Davy, Afghanaid's Managing Director

Trenches, terraces, and gully plugs are all interventions which work to slow down water and snowmelt flowing from mountains and hillsides. These simple but effective flood defences essentially catch water to stop it running off so quickly, and because it helps it stick around, they also work to replenish water in the ground. This means there is more water for future use, sustaining families, land and animals through dry spells.

Yama, the leader of Farid's community disaster management council - formed and supported by Afghanaid - emphasised the important impact of the flood protection work the villagers have undertaken, "The gully plugs and trenches have had positive consequences. Before the trenches were built, floods would frequently destroy our village. But now, the floodwater stays away. The flood water and rocks flows into the trenches, effectively keeping them away from the village. It is a really positive change! The people are very happy about it.

"During the recent years of drought, people in my village faced numerous challenges. They were compelled to sell their livestock and even their land to sustain their families. People witnessed the loss of sheep and cows, which devastated their lives. Agricultural yields were poor, leading to increased poverty. The good news is that this year has brought positive changes: the weather was favourable, with more rainfall. And with assistance, we have no more floods, and more available water.

Farid has since restored his farm to its former glory. "Before, I was only able to grow almond trees on my land, because they could survive the rocks. Now that rocks and water are not falling on my land, I can cultivate more than trees! I grow ferula, mustard, leeks, and grazing crops for our animals. Afghanaid supplied me with the ferula seeds, and gave us training on how to cultivate it, which was really useful. Last year, you could get 10,000 AFN for 1kg of ferula at the bazaar, so it's very valuable to us. It will hopefully make us a good income."

Once risk from drought and floods have been managed, we work with farmers like Farid to build stronger livelihoods so they can continue to be resilient, whatever shocks they may encounter in the future. This includes distributing new seeds, to help diversify what they grow.

"Farmers have also been given wheat, tree saplings and vegetable seeds to grow, as well as fertilisers," Yama explained, "they sell the produce in the market. For those who have livestock, Afghanaid has provided animal feed. Things like chickens have been distributed to women - they keep the poultry and now have an income by selling the eggs. Some of the women are now making vegetable gardens at home. This income helps solve their daily life problems."

A large aspect of our climate adaptation work relies on working with women in the area, whose ability to meaningfully contribute to their family's resilience is often overlooked. As well as helping them to rear chickens and make thriving gardens, we also work with women to develop income streams that are less dependent on the land or livestock to give their families strength - such as tailoring, weaving, and soapmaking.

Find out more about how women are leading through change

A young woman in Farid's village in a tailoring workshop.

Help us support many more farmers like Farid

Climate change is a growing issue for farmers in Afghanistan, with droughts and floods destroying harvests and leaving many unable to rebuild their once thriving livelihoods. For over a decade, Afghanaid has been pioneering climate-adaptation programming in Afghanistan, working alongside rural farming communities to strengthen their resilience in the face of rising temperatures and extreme weather events.

These simple, long lasting solutions are only made possible thanks to your unwavering support. Continue to be a part of this vital, innovative work by donating to our Be The Light appeal today:

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