What can be more valuable than opium to Afghan farmers?
Poplar trees! When the trees are mature, poplar wood fetches a great price, especially with the high demand for buildings and bridges as Afghanistan rebuilds. Even as they are growing, poplar trees can produce cuttings, which can be sold to other farmers interested in a this valuable crop.
Trust in Education partnered with Global Hope Network International so Afghan villagers could have access to this valuable resource. Trust in Education found two farmers who were eager to participate in the program. Global Hope Network Internationl donated 8,000 poplar tree cuttings to each farmer. Over the years, as the trees grow, the farmers will donate cuttings to the program so other farmers can start their own woodlots. They will also be able to sell cuttings so they have a guaranteed income each year. Then, in six years, the trees can be harvested and the valuable wood sold. So with guaranteed income for the first few years and a big payout when they are harvested, poplars are a win-win.
In some ways, the program is helping Afghans reclaim what was lost to war. Afghanistan used to have many trees, but the Soviets and Taliban cut them down to eliminate hiding places. And the struggling population cut down most of the rest for firewood, so that only 2 percent of the country is forested today. Our poplar program is a small step to reforest the land and provide a livelihood for its people. And these puny poplar sticks will eventually become Afghan homes.