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Reforestation Strategies Amid Social Instability: Lessons from Afghanistan


Foreign and domestic government agencies and other international organizations pursue reforestation programs in rural upper watershed areas of Afghanistan over the past decade to alleviate poverty, combat the insurgency and rehabilitate a depleted forest resource base. Popular programs incorporate cash-for-work to conduct hillside terracing, check dam construction and tree-planting for nut production, fuel wood, timber, dune stabilization, and erosion abatement. Programmatic approaches have varied as a function of accessibility, security and local objectives. Uncertain land tenure and use rights, weak local environmental management capacity, and a focus on agricultural production to meet immediate needs limit interest, nationally and locally. Unreliable security, a lack of high quality tree planting stock, limited technical knowledge and coordination among government agencies, and poor security hamper program expansion. Reforestation success would be most likely where these issues are least acute. The Afghan government should focus on supporting community based natural resource management, developing and disseminating improved conservation tree nursery strategies, and promoting watershed management schemes that incorporate forestry, range management and agronomic production. Reforestation practitioners could benefit from the human and material resources now present as part of the international war effort. Successes and failures encountered in Afghanistan should be considered in order to address similar problems in insecure regions elsewhere when reforestation may help reverse environmental degradation and contribute to broader social stabilization efforts.

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This research was supported by the Afghanistan Water, Agriculture and Technology Transfer project funded by U.S. Agency for International Development, Agriculture Development for Afghanistan Pre-Deployment Training funded by U.D. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agriculture Service and Southern Illinois University. Critical reviews were provided by R. Beck, C. Ruffner, and three anonymous reviewers. The support of countless international and Afghan personnel is gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to John W. Groninger.

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Groninger, J.W. Reforestation Strategies Amid Social Instability: Lessons from Afghanistan. Environmental Management 49, 833–845 (2012).

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