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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    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.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora