The southeastern Afghan province of Nangarhar was once home to thousands of hectares of olive groves, but residents say water and electricity shortages, combined with land grabs and years of war and poor maintenance of farms. These reasons have left the industry devastated.
State-run farms here once produced 8,000 tons of olives in a season, but in the decade since the fall of the Taliban, laborers have harvested a total of just 1,400 tons. Last year, the harvest was little over half a ton.
The olive industry grew up around the 1960s Nangarhar Canal, which was intended as a huge income generator for eastern Afghanistan. In its heyday, the 70-kilometer-long waterway provided the irrigation that enabled local producers to export their olives and fruit.
Today, however, officials say the canal system and the surrounding agriculture have been undermined by the dilapidated state of the Darunta hydroelectric dam, built in 1964 on the Kabul River.
There used to be 700,000 olive trees in the province, which borders on Pakistan, but three-quarters of them were destroyed by decades of war starting with the Soviet invasion of 1979. The farms once employed 12,000 workers, but now run on a minimum staff of 800.
According to the people living there: “There isn't enough water to irrigate the olive trees, and there are not enough people to maintain the farms
They said that” of the 14,000 hectares once held by the Nangarhar Canal Project, only 1,100 hectares remain. "The rest has been taken illegally”.
A local resident recalled his father working on the olive farms, but he said that after the Taliban government was ousted in 2001, opportunists rushed in to grab government-owned land and cut down the olive trees.
As a result, Nangarhar residents find it harder and harder to buy locally-pressed olive oil.
This tag is a part of the whole article originally published on January 25, 2012 by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting