When understanding the importance of trees in the Ningrahar Province, one must first understand the impact of Afghanistan Samsortya’s work on the daily lives of the people it serves to benefit and empower. One of these people is Samsortya’s own nursery caretaker, Khalil*, who, through his involvement with the organization since before its inception, has been personally responsible for the daily care of hundreds upon thousands of trees over the course of nine years.

Khalil’s work as a caretaker started in the courtyard of founder Mariam Raqib’s uncle. In Afghanistan, interior courtyards and gardens serve as incredibly important places in the day-to-day life of Afghans; women and children gather under the shade of trees to eat and talk, public gardens serve as mausoleums for the country’s leaders and artists, and courtyards are a vital area within the home for families to gather in privacy. Under Khalil’s attentive care, scores of saplings began their lives within the courtyard and, like children under the watchful eye of a father, grow strong enough to eventually be transplanted in a nursery outside the courtyard walls. Khalil cares for them wherever they take root. Whenever Mariam visits, he shows her each sapling, lifting it up to show her the spindly roots and
budding leaves, pulling each branch back with hands calloused from decades of hard work.

Screen Shot 2015-12-12 at 10.29.35 AM

This hard work at the nursery is the only thing that supports his family of 9. Father, mother, grandmother, and six young children all live under one roof and depend on Khalil’s salary to pay rent, buy food, medicine, and school books. In a country where the average yearly pay is just over $400, this is no easy feat. Khalil’s job at the Samsortya nursery enables him to provide for his large family and allow his children to stay in school instead of joining the workforce. Of course, Khalil is just one of the many people who collaborate as part of Afghanistan Samsortya’s commitment in Ningrahar. Afsoon, the adult daughter of a Samsortya gardener, now teaches in an informal girl’s school, but also studies medicine at a university in Jalalabad with the hope of becoming a midwife. When her family began working with the organization ten years ago, Afsoon was just twelve years old. She and her family stayed in a house on land that was donated to Afghanistan Samsortya and took care of the house and property in exchange for rent. Afsoon and her siblings were able to remain in school.

IMG_0299

On a recent journey to Ningrahar, a visitor described feeling like a young student to Afsoon’s classroom. In it, Ningrahar’s next generation of girls learn to read, write, and speak their minds under the guidance of their teacher who, like them was fortunate for the opportunity to be educated. Tree nurseries alone are not Samsortya’s only means of empowering households and communities. The organization’s more recent project to purchase chickens for Afghan families was one born out of frustration with foreign aid.

10322778_761490230569857_8374484481674178989_n

In Afghanistan’s refugee camps, the World Food Organization distributed blankets, fresh water, and food to displaced families. Among the food handed out was, confusingly, eggs. Seemingly not taken into account was the trek that many refugees undergo to receive these goods, and the fact that once the person gets back to their camp, often many kilometers away, any fragile items like eggs would either be spoiled or broken. While initially more expensive than a pack of eggs, bringing chickens and other livestock to refugee camps as sources of protein for young children and families became an important initiative in Afghanistan.

A widow named Wahida partnered with Afghanistan Samsortya in order to establish and expand the effort to bring chickens to low income Afghan families. After losing her police officer husband in a suicide bombing, Wahida receives in the way of income only her husband’s small pension from the government (which, depending on the state of the government’s filing system and the amount of money in the treasury, is liable to get lost from month to month) and rent from an apartment she owns in Kabul. With chickens of her own, Wahida is able to ensure that she and her three children are nourished with fresh eggs every morning before they go off to school. Caloric intake and protein is especially important for developing brains and bodies in Afghanistan, which can be harshly cold at night and in winter. Being able to add a few hundred calories to each child’s daily diet through a morning meal of eggs truly can make the difference between emaciation and a bare minimum for health and nutrition. In the future, Afghanistan Samsortya hopes to focus on chickens and other livestock as agricultural resources for Afghanistan’s people, in addition to the most fundamental importance of trees.

1557687_695939170458297_1370976657_n
Founder and director Mariam Raqib says of her charitable endeavors that they have the tendency to envelop those who are most passionate. The people that work with Afghanistan Samsortya are bright and hardworking. Their desire, more than anything, is to simply bring peace, empowerment, and stability to Afghanistan through the gift of trees.

The prospect of moving heaven and earth to make a change in the world is truly a daunting task for the average
individual. Sometimes the best and most productive changes are those that transform the life of a single person and their family- like Khalil, Afsoon, and Wahida.

Afghanistan Samsortya would like to thank its supporters in Afghanistan, the United States, and beyond. Without your tireless work, incredibly generous donations, and impressive efforts, we would not be able to do the very necessary work of reforesting and revitalizing the devastated ecosystem of Afghanistan. To learn more about our work or to make a donation, please visit us on the web at www.afghanistansamsortya.org