For the last four years, Afghanaid has been working in partnership with The HALO Trust, drawing together both organisations’ expertise to restore previously dangerous, mine-contaminated land into a valuable and productive resource. As this project draws to a close, we are excited to share that the innovative partnership has proven to be a brilliant match - making villages safer, supporting families to lift themselves out of poverty, and saving lives.

The threat of landmines in Afghanistan

Following long decades of violent conflict, unexploded landmines litter land across Afghanistan. Many of these mines are a legacy of the Soviet War in the 1980s or the Civil War in the 1990s. This means that, for decades, farmers have been living in minefields, unable to grow sufficient crops or graze their animals, trapping whole communities in poverty and putting lives at risk on a daily basis.. 

With 1,495 communities across 33 provinces still affected by mines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW), every village has its own tales to tell of lives lost and disrupted.

How have Afghanaid and HALO tackled this problem?

Over four years between 2016 and 2020, Afghanaid worked with the HALO Trust in Samangan and Logar provinces. The aim was to focus not merely on the removal of mines, but on what happened in the community after the land was retrieved. Afghanaid followed up mine clearance with specialised support and training, relevant to the specific needs of the local community.

We ran training courses for men and women in updated and improved agriculture techniques, orchard management, poultry rearing, greenhouse management and cultivation of the medicinal crop ferula.

Then, we provided the tools and seeds they needed to put this training into action, and supported them to construct greenhouses so they can grow food all year round. Alongside this, we have constructed canals to provide safe drinking water to homes, schools and clinics, and to irrigate the newly-cleared land.


A fruitful partnership

Now that this project has come to a close, we’ve been reflecting on its impact. A recent independent report highlighted the huge success of building a relationship between mine action and development activities, showing that combining the two was hugely more effective than conducting either in isolation. 

Two thirds of those involved reported higher agricultural yields and increased incomes as a result of:

a) having gained new skills and tools, as well as a diverse range of crops to grow, and

b) having more safe land on which to do so. 

Previously dangerous land can also now be used for livestock, as well as for accessing natural resources like fuel or stones, which further contributes to household incomes. Their increased financial security has also removed the need for families to resort to negative coping strategies, which was previously widely spread in these areas of the country. 

Success in action 

Sarqia Afghania village in Samangan is a great example of the success of our work in action. Nestled among the mountains of central Afghanistan, the villagers’ homes were surrounded by landmines and explosives. The danger was ever-present. 

Zamarai is a 29-year-old farmer living in the village, “There were a lot of hidden mines left in and around our village, including in my land,” he said, “the mines injured many people and killed our animals. We realised we could not access this land and considered it lost.”

“Two years ago The HALO Trust checked the area surrounding our village and cleared the mines and my land was suddenly cleared of danger!” Zamarai laughs, “I was so happy that I could start working on my land and Afghanaid helped me to turn it into an orchard,” he continues, “Afghanaid provided me with 80 saplings to get me going, and I attended a training course on orchard management. Since then, the staff regularly visit my orchard to check if I need any further help or advice and I have bought a further 90 saplings to supplement my new orchard.”

Men and women from Zamarai's local community are now able to safely collect water, grow more and diversify their crops. With much uncertainty ahead, it is a comfort to know that they can rely on their new crops to feed their families and earn an income to support themselves.

Long-term relief 

No longer afflicted by worry over physical risks to themselves, their children and relatives, local women have reported feeling less stressed and anxious. These women are also now able to earn their own income and are investing a large portion of what they earn on the health and education of their children and the daily expenses of their households. As income-earners who can contribute to the financial stability of their families, they are enjoying a new-found respect within their homes and their wider communities.

Furthermore, almost every person involved noted the improved levels of peace and co-existence in their villages. The increased availability of grazing land in particular has helped to ease land-use tensions, creating a more harmonious, happier community who can work together to improve their lives, and pass their new skills on to the next generation.

How can you help?

When you help a vulnerable person get through difficult times and achieve their full potential, you give them the power to make real, lasting change for themselves, their families and their communities. Give your support today to transform tomorrow: