Ferula cultivation on degraded slopes [Afghanistan]

Korkardi hing dar zaminhoi takhbirshuda

technologies_675 - Afghanistan

Completeness: 88%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:


Livelihood Improvement Project Takhar (LIPT)


SLM specialist:
Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Potential and limitations for improved natural resource management (NRM) in mountain communities in the Rustaq district, Afghanistan (Rustaq NRM Study)
Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Livelihood Improvement Project Takhar, Afghanistan (LIPT)
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Terre des Hommes (Terre des Hommes) - Switzerland
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (DEZA / COSUDE / DDC / SDC) - Switzerland
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
CDE Centre for Development and Environment (CDE Centre for Development and Environment) - Switzerland
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)
Bern University of Applied Sciences, School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences (HAFL) - Switzerland

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

When were the data compiled (in the field)?


The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


1.4 Declaration on sustainability of the described Technology

Is the Technology described here problematic with regard to land degradation, so that it cannot be declared a sustainable land management technology?



SLM practices documented in the frame of the Rustaq NRM study were established only recently (1-3 years ago). It is too early for a final judgment on the sustainability of these technologies within the human and natural environment of Chokar watershed.

2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Ferula cultivation is used as a method to protect cropland and grazing land from erosion - and it can bring degraded land back into production. It provides ferula gum, which is sold for high prices on the local market.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Project supported implementation of ferula cultivation has taken place in the villages of Sari Joy, Jawaz Khana and Dashti Mirzai, located in Chokar watershed of Rustaq District in Northern Afghanistan. The Chokar watershed is a mountainous area situated between 600 m and 2,500 m above sea level. The climate is semi-arid with harsh and cold weather in winter, and hot and dry summers. The average annual precipitation is 580mm. Land degradation affects all forms of land use, and includes low vegetation cover, severe top soil erosion by water, and poor soil fertility. Unsustainable agricultural practices, over-exploitation and high pressure on the natural resources are adversely impacting on the socio-economic well-being of local communities, as well as contributing to the risk of being adversely affected by drought - as well as landslides and flash foods triggered by heavy rainfall. The data used for the documentation of the technology are based on field research conducted in Chokar watershed, namely in the villages: Sari Joy, Jawaz Khana and Dashti Mirzai. These villages represent the upper, the middle and the lower zones of Chokar watershed, respectively. They differ considerably in access to services and infrastructure, but in general are poorly served. The communities depend on land resources for sustaining their livelihoods. In a good year with high yields, wheat-self-sufficiency lasts about 5 months. The three villages are home to ethnic Qarluq communities. Since 2012 the Livelihood Improvement Project Takhar (LIPT) implemented by Terre des hommes (Tdh) Switzerland has initiated a range of NRM interventions.

As part of the activities to restore degraded lands and prevent further erosion of valuable land resources, ferula (Ferula asafoetida) is cultivated on rainfed and heavily degraded hill sides. Ferula is an indigenous plant, tolerant to high temperatures and drought resistant, and well suited to the local climatic conditions. It is perennial, therefore protects the soil by avoiding the need for annual cultivation. It is a medicinal plant of high economic value. The gum-like extract taken from the stem of the plant is sold on the local market. One ferula bush yields 70 grams of gum. From 1 Jirib (0.2 ha) 250 kg of ferula gum can be harvested. Ferula gum is used in pharmaceutical production and there is a high interest among farmers to cultivate ferula for selling on the local market, which is then exported to international markets, such as India.
Ferula is planted as intercropping on terraces and reforestation sites. On demonstration sites of rehabilitated pastures, ferula is planted together with alfalfa. Most ferula plantations, however, are on the land of those land users who have private degraded cropland or pastureland and are interested in cultivating ferula. The village Natural Resources Management Committees (NRMC) with the support of the Livelihood Improvement Project Takhar (LIPT) providing training for the land users on ferula cultivation, explaining the specifics of sowing, maintaining and harvesting the plant extract.
The land users involved in cultivating ferula have not yet harvested the gum from the plant. The ferula plantations are only 1-2 years old. Considering the commercial value of the plant and the high demand for it on the local market, the land users work hard on their ferula plots to produce good yields for selling. Both men and women from the household are involved in the activities, with women mainly doing the weeding.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:

Takhar Province, Rustaq District

Further specification of location:

Sari Joy, Jawaz Khana, Dashti Mirzai


This documentation is based on the experiences of SLM impementers from Sari Joy (5 plots), Jawaz Khana, (4 plots), and Dashti Mirzai (5 plots) as compiled during FGDs. Additionally insights were gained through interviews in all three villages on farmers experiences and observations of ferula plots, with both SLM implementers (9) and observers (17).

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • less than 10 years ago (recently)

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • through projects/ external interventions
Comments (type of project, etc.):

Livelihood Improvement Project Takhar (LIPT) supported by Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) from 2012-17

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • improve production
  • reduce, prevent, restore land degradation
  • create beneficial economic impact

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied



  • Perennial (non-woody) cropping
Main crops (cash and food crops):


Grazing land

Grazing land

Extensive grazing land:
  • Semi-nomadism/ pastoralism
Intensive grazing/ fodder production:
  • Cut-and-carry/ zero grazing
Main animal species and products:

Ferula and Alfalfa

3.3 Further information about land use

Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
  • rainfed
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 1

3.4 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • improved ground/ vegetation cover

3.5 Spread of the Technology

Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • evenly spread over an area
If the Technology is evenly spread over an area, indicate approximate area covered:
  • < 0.1 km2 (10 ha)

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

vegetative measures

vegetative measures

  • V2: Grasses and perennial herbaceous plants

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

soil erosion by water

soil erosion by water

  • Wt: loss of topsoil/ surface erosion
soil erosion by wind

soil erosion by wind

  • Et: loss of topsoil
biological degradation

biological degradation

  • Bc: reduction of vegetation cover
  • Bq: quantity/ biomass decline

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • restore/ rehabilitate severely degraded land

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology


Roziya Kirgizbekova



4.2 Technical specifications/ explanations of technical drawing

Ferula plantations are established on mountain slopes of 16 - 60 % steepness. The soil is preliminarily loosened and all the weeds are removed. The seedbed preparation involves preparing rows of 50 cm distance between each other. The distance between sown ferula seeds is 25 cm. After sowing, the ferula plant takes up to 5 years to yield its first harvest. During 5 years the plot is protected from animals and maintained with weeding. The ferula leaves are fed to the livestock as fodder. Collection of ferula gum is done only with specific training to ensure proper collection and storage of the harvest.

4.3 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

Specify how costs and inputs were calculated:
  • per Technology area
Indicate size and area unit:

1 ha

Specify currency used for cost calculations:
  • US Dollars
Indicate exchange rate from USD to local currency (if relevant): 1 USD =:


Indicate average wage cost of hired labour per day:

5.2-5.3 USD

4.4 Establishment activities

Activity Type of measure Timing
1. Loosening and weeding the land Agronomic Fall
2. Troweling the land Agronomic End of winter
3. Preparation of seedbed Agronomic End of winter
4. Sowing seeds Agronomic End of winter/spring

4.5 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Loosening the land and weeding person-day 10.0 1.5 15.0 90.0
Labour Troweling the land person-day 10.0 5.3 53.0 90.0
Labour Preparation of seedbed person-day 10.0 5.3 53.0 90.0
Labour Sowing of ferula seed person-day 15.0 5.3 79.5 90.0
Equipment Weeding spud piece 5.0 0.45 2.25
Equipment Harrow piece 5.0 2.4 12.0
Equipment Shovel piece 5.0 3.8 19.0
Equipment Pick axe piece 5.0 2.8 14.0
Plant material Ferula seed kg 5.0 70.0 350.0
Fertilizers and biocides DAP kg 250.0 0.9 225.0
Fertilizers and biocides Urea kg 250.0 0.45 112.5
Fertilizers and biocides Animal manure ton 2.0 60.0 120.0 80.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 1055.25
If land user bore less than 100% of costs, indicate who covered the remaining costs:

Livelihood Improvement Project Takhar (LIPT) implemented by Terre des hommes (Tdh) Switzerland


Costs calculated for a Technology area of 1ha was only done for the purpose of the WOCAT documentation. In reality SLM plots are on average 0.4 ha or 2 jiribs. Costs were simply multiplied by 2.5. The actual costs for a 1ha plot might be slightly different.

4.6 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Type of measure Timing/ frequency
1. Cutting the upper part of the plant Agronomic Annual/summer
2. Weeding Agronomic Summer
3. Extraction of ferula gum Agronomic After 5 years

4.7 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Cutting the upper part of the plant person day 10.0 4.5 45.0 100.0
Labour Weeding person day 10.0 5.3 53.0 100.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 98.0

Extraction of ferula gum takes place after five years of growth of the plant. Extraction requires additional costs from the land user.
Costs calculated for a Technology area of 1ha was only done for the purpose of the WOCAT documentation. In reality SLM plots are on average 0.4 ha or 2 jiribs. Costs were simply multiplied by 2.5. The actual costs for a 1ha plot might be slightly different.

4.8 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

Due to the remoteness of the villages where the technology has been implemented, all the inputs for establishment, such as agricultural equipment, plant material, fertilizers, etc., are purchased in Rustaq town. The expenses for traveling and delivering the inputs affect the establishment costs.

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Specify average annual rainfall (if known), in mm:


Specifications/ comments on rainfall:

Average annual precipitation for the area is 564 mm, with minimum in dry years (e.g. 2000 and 2001) of 270 mm and maximum in wet years (e.g. 2009 and 2010) of 830 mm. The dataset shows an absolute maximum for annual rainfall for 1986, 1024 mm, and the absolute minimum for 2001, 269 mm. The data series covers the time from 1979 to 2014.

Indicate the name of the reference meteorological station considered:

Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR),

Agro-climatic zone
  • semi-arid

Derived from the publicly available dataset on length of growing period (LGP) (Fischer 2009 / IIASA-FAO). Internet link:

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.
Comments and further specifications on topography:

-SLM implementers information provided in the Land User Protocol (LUP) during an FGD
-Elevation and slope statistics derived for terraced plots from ASTGTM. ASTGTM is the ASTER Global Digital Elevation Model V002 with a 30 m spatial resolution. More information on ASTGTM is available here: The data can be downloaded here:

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • medium (loamy, silty)
Soil texture (> 20 cm below surface):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
  • medium (loamy, silty)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • medium (1-3%)
  • low (<1%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.

Local land users differentiate between the following soil types where the technology is implemented:
- Red: shallow; texture medium, coarse; low organic matter
- Light: moderately deep; texture medium; medium, low organic matter

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

5-50 m

Availability of surface water:


Water quality (untreated):

good drinking water

Is water salinity a problem?


Is flooding of the area occurring?




Comments and further specifications on water quality and quantity:

Floods occur mainly during the rainy seasons in spring and autumn. Availability of surface water differs for the three study villages Sari Joy, Jawaz Khana, and Dashti Mirzai. Sari Joy has sources and good surface water availability. Jawaz Khana has poor water availability as water has to be fetched from a lower laying stream. Dashti Mirzai has good water availability also from an irrigation channel.

5.5 Biodiversity

Species diversity:
  • low
Habitat diversity:
  • low

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Sedentary or nomadic:
  • Sedentary
Market orientation of production system:
  • commercial/ market
Off-farm income:
  • 10-50% of all income
  • > 50% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • average
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
Level of mechanization:
  • manual work
  • women
  • men
Age of land users:
  • middle-aged
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

The land users in the area where the Technology is applied belong to the Uzbek ethnic minority group Qarluq.
Although the men are generally the main land users, women and children also take active part in the related work. The functions of men and women are clearly distinguished within Afghan society. At the same time within the family this division of work and functions also results in men and women working hand-in-hand. An improvement of the family’s livelihood situation is expected to positively affect all family members. While, it is recognized that the involvement of women is key in order to secure basic human rights for everyone, to achieve good governance, sustainable development, and to efficiently contribute to poverty reduction (SDC 2004), it is also clear that a context sensitive approach is of great importance.
Women in rural Afghanistan are involved in many production and income generating activities that contribute to the overall household income, however, very few women own resources such as land and livestock, and their income generating options are fewer in comparison to that of men.

5.7 Average area of land owned or leased by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha
Is this considered small-, medium- or large-scale (referring to local context)?
  • medium-scale

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • individual, not titled
Land use rights:
  • individual
Water use rights:
  • communal (organized)

Those who own land and use water for irrigation are obliged to pay for the water. The payment is made both in kind and in cash to the Mirob, the person in charge of distributing water in the community. The amount of the payment varies from village to village.

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


crop production

Comments/ specify:

Ferula is a source of high-income and also a medicinal plant used for treatment by households.

fodder production

Comments/ specify:

The grass grown in between the ferula crop and also ferula leaves are harvested for forage.

animal production

Comments/ specify:

Livestock is fed from the ferula plot leaves and the grass that grows there.

wood production


non-wood forest production


product diversity


production area


Socio-cultural impacts

SLM/ land degradation knowledge

Comments/ specify:

Land users learned how to implement SLM practice. They are trained on managing and maintaining the ferula plantations to achieve good harvests.

situation of socially and economically disadvantaged groups

Comments/ specify:

Female headed households are not included. Technology is implemented on private land, therefore people without land are excluded. However, they have the opportunity to earn income as a hired worker for the SLM implementers.

Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

surface runoff


soil loss

Biodiversity: vegetation, animals

Vegetation cover


6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

downstream flooding


downstream siltation


buffering/ filtering capacity

Comments regarding impact assessment:

These comments apply to 6.1 and 6.2:
Socio-economic impacts: Based on the Land User Protocols: Individual SLM implementers were asked to rate the benefits for their Technology. They were asked to indicate production increase of crops; fodder; animals; wood; non-wood forest products; increase in product diversity; or production area. The most important increase they rated with 3, the second most with 2, others with 1 point. Averages of the points given by all SLM implementers are reflected here.
Ecological and off-site impacts: Based on the Land User Protocols: Individual SLM implementers were asked to rate the on-site and off-site impacts of the Technology on water; soil; and vegetation. They were asked to indicate the strength of impacts with three, two or one points. Averages of the points given by all implementers are reflected here.

6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Meteorological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
local rainstorm well
Climatological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
drought well

SLM implementers from three villages were asked to jointly discuss and rate how much the SLM technology reduced the lands vulnerability to drought and local rainstorms. Only vulnerability to the most prevalent climate extremes (drought and local rainstorms) was discussed. SLM technologies were rated as reducing vulnerability poorly, well, or very well. The average points reflected here are from multi-criteria matrixes compiled in three villages where the SLM technology had been implemented.

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:

very positive


SLM implementers from three villages were asked to jointly discuss and rate the SLM technologies short term (1-3 years) and long-term (10 years) return. As most of the technologies have only been implemented 1-2 years ago, it is too early to compare benefits to maintenance costs. Farmers have little experience so far on the actual benefits of the SLM technologies. The ratings are mostly based on expected benefits and not on actual benefits.

6.5 Adoption of the Technology

  • 1-10%
If available, quantify (no. of households and/ or area covered):

7 ha

Of all those who have adopted the Technology, how many have did so spontaneously, i.e. without receiving any material incentives/ payments?
  • 10-50%

Individual SLM implementers were asked whether they received support for implementing the Technology. Each indicated the type of support he received from the proposed options: "Full Support 100%, Some Support, No Support 0%". 29% implemented the Technology without receiving support.

6.6 Adaptation

Has the Technology been modified recently to adapt to changing conditions?


6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the land user’s view
Ferula cultivation is practiced mainly for harvesting quality ferula gum and selling it on the local market. Ferula promises high income opportunities and this serves as a strong motivation to implement this SLM practice.
Cultivation of ferula is a good way to make use of degraded unused cropland and grazing land, which are not fit for other purposes.
The ferula plant is well tolerant to drought and grows well without irrigation.
The plant is widely used for medicinal purposes by the household to save money on buying expensive medication.
Ferula leaves are used for feeding the livestock until ferula gum can be harvested.
Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
The high drought resistance of the ferula plant makes it very attractive and well suited for areas with the shortage of irrigation water and low precipitation levels.
The strong root system of ferula preserves the soil and prevents erosion, even during heavy rains.
Cultivation of ferula in the area adds to the plant diversity and increases the vegetation cover of the degraded slopes substantially.
High expectation about the increased income generation opportunity of ferula are shared by both men and women.

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the land user’s view How can they be overcome?
The main disadvantage of managing ferula plot is the long waiting period until the crop starts giving yield, which can be sold on the market. Farmers have to spend up to five years maintaining the crop before harvesting.
Ferula seeds are very costly and purchasing them is a high investment for the farmer who decides to establish a ferula plot. In times ferula seeds are also difficult to access in the local community.
Establishment of ferula plot requires a lot of hard work during the first year.
Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
Ferula is cultivated only on private land and therefore a farmer has to own a private land to be able to establish his ferula plot. Those that do not have sufficient land are not able to grow ferula.
Although ferula promises high income for the household, some women who support their family in ferula cultivation perceive the investments made are too high in comparison to the benefits ferula provides. This is because they have not seen yet the ferula gum harvest, which takes up to five years.

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • field visits, field surveys

No field visits were conducted.

  • interviews with land users

Focus group discussions (FGD) were organized by the CDE team to collect information from SLM implementers. Total of 14 land users who have implemented the technology participated in the FGDs held in the three villages of Sari Joy, Jawaz Khana and Dashti Mirzai.
Interviews were conducted by the HAFL team to collect information from persons representing all the three study villages. Very detailed interviews were conducted with 26 persons interested in the technology implementation, of which 9 persons are from households that already have implemented the technology.

  • interviews with SLM specialists/ experts

Close collaboration took place during the compilation of this material with the technical staff of the LIPT project in Rustaq.

  • compilation from reports and other existing documentation

Information provided in the reports of the LIPT project in Rustaq served as an initial source of information during the preparatory phase and also solidifying the description of the technology and area of implementation. Other background papers on Afghanistan were referred to for general information on agriculture and natural resource management in Afghanistan.

7.2 References to available publications

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Guidelines for Focus Groups Discussions

Title, author, year, ISBN:

Methods section of the Rustaq NRM study

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