News / Asia

After War, Afghan Plain Begins to Flourish

Before the Taliban took control in 1996, the people of Shomali relied on their harvest for food.  It is not like it was in the past, but they say their morale is high and they are hopeful.
Before the Taliban took control in 1996, the people of Shomali relied on their harvest for food. It is not like it was in the past, but they say their morale is high and they are hopeful.

Multimedia

Audio
  • Matta report on Afghanistan's Shomali Plain 18 Nov 2010

Bethany Matta

Nine years after the fall of the Taliban, one of the regions in Afghanistan most damaged by 30 years of war is slowly coming back to life.



On Fridays many Kabulis pack into their cars and leave the traffic-jammed capital behind. They get on the Kabul-Mazar highway and head out about 20 kilometers to the Shomali Plain. Here they relax in vineyards, eat grapes, dried fruit and walnuts, and drink tea.

The stretch of land from Kabul to Shomali is some of the most fertile in Afghanistan. But the plains saw heavy fighting over the past 30 years, serving as a frontline first after the Soviet invasion and then under the Taliban years. Homes and farms were destroyed, large areas were littered with mines.

But things are changing.

Back to life

The one-lane highway is now two. Farmers have come back and replanted their vines. Residents say in the past few years they have again been able to rely on their land for food.

Ghyas, who works in Kabul, makes the commute from Shomali to the capital several times a week. His family has lived in the district of Gul Dara for generations.

Gul Dara means "valley of flowers" in Dari. Ghyas remembers what the plain was like before the Taliban.

He says it had everything: pears, apples, grapes, raisins, figs, apricots, peaches and cherries.

Taliban rule

Ghyas' father was killed when the Soviets invaded. He says when the Taliban took over in 1996 there was no work. He was scared he would have to fight so Ghyas and his mother left for Pakistan, where he wove carpets for $4 a day.

Most Shomali residents left during the Taliban years. They went to Pakistan or Iran. Shopkeeper Mama Nasier was an exception; he decided to stay and then was jailed by the Taliban. Nasier remembers the day he was taken from the front of his shop. Two years and six months later he got out.

Nasier says after his release from jail the situation was so bad that if he had taken pictures, people would not have believed that this was the valley of flowers. There were no trees, no houses, everything had burned. Not even birds were here, and even the shop had burned down. This place, Nasier says, was crazy.

Blessing or curse?

The Shomali Plain's location and its vineyards seem to have been both a blessing and a curse.

The Kabul-Mazar highway is the only road entering the capital from North and Central Asia. So whether it was the Soviet convoys lining the highway and the mujahideen attacking them from the vineyards or Taliban fighting the Northern Alliance from the capital, the area was prime for fighting.

An estimated 200,000 residents left Shomali between 1998 and 2000. When the U.S.-led foreign forces came in 2001, the United Nations started returning displaced villagers. Ghyas says that was the hardest time.

The return

He says when they came back, they did not have a house, so they had to put up a tent and live in it. The economy was not good, so they could not afford a house, they had to build one, so they were living outside. It has taken nine years to get where they are.

After nine years, residents say things here are much better but there is still not enough water, the irrigation canals and roads are in poor condition. But there is a school and a clinic.

The fruit-stall sellers say they are back to selling their produce to the Kabul bazaar, though the market is not good and it is hard to get decent prices for their grapes and apples.

As one seller speaks, another from the next stall says he can only sell fruit for 80 to 100 Afghanis a kilogram, roughly $2 -- much less than in previous years.

Good old days

The two talk back and forth about how they used to export fruit to Pakistan and India and raisins to Russia. They say the government has promised to start exports again but many think those are empty promises.

While many people in Shomali are optimistic about the future, they still fear that the Taliban may come back. They also complain that government corruption makes it harder for farmers who are bringing life back to the Shomali Plain.

You May Like

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid