Hope sprouts

Published: Tuesday 15 October 2002

War has taken its toll on agriculture in Afghanistan. The country's seed collections have been destroyed, putting its crop diversity at risk. Taking stock of the situation, a consortium of international crop genebanks led by Future Harvest -- a global network of food and environmental research centres -- has now begun restoration work. Scientists believe that these seed stores are crucial to preserve traditional varieties. The seed collections had been stored in plastic jars hidden in houses in the cities of Ghazni and Jalalabad. "Fortunately, the looters took only the plastic containers and left the seed behind," said Nassrat Wassimi, Kabul coordinator of the Future Harvest Consortium to Rebuild Agriculture in Afghanistan.

The scientists have pointed out that hundreds of samples of seeds have been destroyed. These include wheat, barley, chickpea, lentil, melon, pistachio, almond and pomegranate. In a bid to rebuild these collections, Future Harvest is working with seedbanks in India, Mexico, Pakistan and Syria to repatriate hundreds of crop samples collected in Afghanistan.

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