SAR-i-PUL (PAN): The economy of around 80% population of the Sar-i-Pul province depends on agriculture and livestock farms, provincial officials said.
In addition, natural resources elsewhere in the province offer better employment opportunities for the residents.
Farmers said rehabilitation could not take place during the past decade in the province as was expected by the people, noting the growers’ community was facing the same decades old problems.
Half of their land deprived of cultivation every season because of shortage of irrigation water, they added.
Livestock farmers complained influential and officials forcefully grabbed their lands and they had no grazing land for their animals.
Sar-i-Pul province had a small number of plain areas suitable for agriculture but most of its terrain is covered by mountains.
Engineer Mohammad Jafar Amirzai, head of provincial agriculture department told Pajhwok Afghan New shortage of irrigation water was the main problem of farmer community.
He went on to say agriculture sector of Sar-i-Pul could be developed if the central government extended its all out help to resolve the water issue.
Amirzai said the total cultivated land was measured around 111,000 hectares out of which 50, 000 hectares was irrigated, 60, 000 rain fed while the rests 18,000 was covered by orchards.
Wheat is widely cultivated crop with bumper production in Sar-i-Pul while barley, corn, sesame, melon, grapes, watermelon are other production of the province.
In addition, the province has vast livestock farms where different kinds of animals such as bulls, cows, sheep and hens are being kept.
Amirzai stated major issues being faced by the farmers were the shortage of water and nonexistence of grazing lands for animals, who said 50% of irrigated land went uncultivated annually because of shortage of water.
Alhaj Zafran, a resident of Sayed Abad told Pajhwok Afghan News: “Every year, we disparately wait for rain and snow to irrigate our crops.
Due to lack of irrigation water we cannot cultivate our land.
He said he had his own 25 acres land in his village but was not able to cultivate complete land since long.
Mostly our cultivation depends on rain and snowfall. The more it rains and snows the more we cultivate out land, he added.
The irrigated land would convert to deserts if the government could not take immediate measures to resolve the water issue, he said.
Head of agriculture department said effective measures had been taken during the past couple of years to remove the shortage of irrigation water.
Four irrigation projects had been launched in the current year where 90% work had been completed, he said, noting the irrigation projects in Aqtaj, Aqtaj Kari, Shikakh Qazi and Qimati areas would help irrigate 4,000 hectares land once the projects were completed.
Head of agriculture department informed 2,000 saplings were to be planted in the monsoon season in different parts of the city.
Moreover, saplings of pistachio would be planted on 100 hectares.
Livestock farmers complained about lack of plain areas for grazing their animals. They said influential and land mafia grabbed the nearby plain areas, leaving them unable to keep animals any more.
Alhaj Bismillah, a resident and tribal elder of Jaghdan area in Gosfandi district told Pajhwok Afghan News land mafia was out to grab land of the locals and even state-owned land in the area.
He went on to say the mafia fenced the grabbed lands and continued to claim its ownership without fear.
Amrullah, Noorullah, Mohammad Karim, Baz Mohammad were among the names of grabbing lands in the locality, he said, noting each of them grabbed around 50 acres land including the stat-owned.
He alleged government was in connivance with the land grabbers because the officials concerned did not take any notice to take action against the criminals.
Head of agriculture department said following repeated demands by the livestock farmers, as many as 12 veterinary clinics were established in the province while two more clinics would soon be established in order to prevent the animals’ diseases.
He acknowledged grabbing of state-owned land, adding steps were being taken to take back the grabbed land from the mafia.
Giving minute details, he said it was revealed after thorough investigation that 40, 304 acres land had been grabbed by mafia including vast meadow. Head of the provincial agriculture department said officials were working to resolve the issue of land grabbing.
He said committee had been formed following directives by the provincial governor, which was headed by the provincial agriculture department to evacuate the land from occupiers.
The committee had prepared the list of 539 alleged land grabbers, he added.
Economic and trade activities did not progress in the province as per expectations of the locals.
The main source of economy is agriculture and livestock but traditional methods of trade were still in practice in Sar-i-Pul province.
Mukhar, spokesman of Sar-i-Pul governor told Pajhwok Afghan News the province had not that much trade and commerce activities, adding business activities were limited to the surrounding of provincial capital.
He expressed satisfaction by saying ice-making factory was functioning in the province while few people were associated with the business of pistachio.
Mohammad Din, a former businessman he used to buy pistachio in local markets and then exported to Mazar-e-Sahrif city for sale with high prices.
The pistachio market had witnessed decline in the province in recent years.
Mukhtar said employment opportunities had been discovered after exploration of oil and gas in the province by Chinese company.
The province produced limited handicraft products mainly by women. 
The governor spokesman said the local handicraft industry could not compete the booming Balkh and Jawzjan provinces’ handicraft industries.
He said a formal association of carpet industry did not exist in the province that could bring further development to the carpet production.
He said some NGOs were working to explore further opportunities for women, defend their legal rights and provide them with vocational training.
Shah Bibi, who was feeding her kids with the money she was earning from weaving carpets, told Pajhwok Afghan News she brought the required carpet weaving stuff from Aqchi district of Jawzjan province.
She demanded the government should take steps to promote the handicraft industry on modern lines, which would help bolster economy of the province and country as well.