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    Paktika farmers seek saffron seeds, training

    SHARAN (PAN): Farmers have urged the government to provide them with saffron seeds and arrange training programmes for them in southeastern Paktika province, where poppy cultivation has been reduced to zero, officials said on Wednesday.

    Despite abject poverty, growers had given up cultivating poppies, Kala Khan, member of the provincial farmer association, told Pajhwok Afghan News. 

    He said saffron cultivation had yielded results throughout the country, convincing farmers to abandon poppies. "Saffron seeds are not available in the market and farmers don't know how to cultivate it," he said.

    Khan urged the government and donors to provide farmers with saffron seeds, technical support and training programmes. 

    Shobin, a resident of Sharan, said he had cultivated wheat, corn and grass on 650 acres of land. But the yield of the crops could not meet his family needs. He accused the government of ignoring the province.

    "In provinces where poppies are gown, the government and donor organisations distribute wheat seeds in addition to other forms of assistance to farmers. But poppy-free provinces are deprived of such assistance," he deplored.

    Zaraatwal Khurasani, a local agriculturist, said Paktika's land was appropriate for saffron cultivation and the crop would yield satisfactory results.   

    Mullah Masoom Khairvi, the provincial tribal council head, said government assistance was essential for agriculture development in the province. "Since the country's economy is largely based on agriculture, farmers should be provided every possible facility." 

    Hamidullah Tokhi, the agriculture and livestock director, called the demands genuine, saying many farmers had been calling for saffron seeds and training programmes.

    The agriculture ministry has pledged to arrange seeds and training course for farmers next solar year, he said.