Afghanistan's Kandahar International Airport staff helped Afghan farmers load their iconic pomegranate fruit onto an aircraft destined for the international market Nov. 9 in what has been nearly a four-decade lapse in business.
In less than a day, 15 tons of pomegranate fruit will arrive in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and two more shipments are scheduled to depart within the week.
It is an indicator that the historic capability of Kandahar to export their fruits can be revived, said Henry Ensher, U.S. State Department senior civilian representative in Kandahar. State Department members are here helping Afghans create a stable, economically-sound country and are working specifically with the U.S. Agency for International Development to bridge export gaps between Afghanistan and the rest of the world.
"This fruit is world quality," he said. "And it's now going out to the world so the markets overseas will come to understand that Afghanistan, and particularly Kandahar, is back in the game."
Since KIA management began readying for the pomegranate export, the airport's monthly income increased from $52,000 to more than $142,000, said KIA General Manager Ahmad Faizi. The export business plays a factor, but the real money comes from local business owners showing their support for the airport.
This sends a message to the farmers that if their vegetables and fruits are going into the international market, Faizi continued, they should focus on improving their pomegranate gardens instead of cultivating other produce, particularly poppy flowers.
"I think it's clear that Afghan farmers will come to understand that if they employ good agricultural techniques," Ensher said and "that if they support the efforts of their government to provide security that they can make a better living for themselves and their family."
Farmer Abdul Ghafoor said after seeing the event today he will try to further develop his products, explain to other farmers the benefits of exporting and get them on board with the program.
It is very impressive, he said, to see the pomegranates flying - so much so that the farmers he knows will forget everything else and focus on their crops.