Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority and Group 42 of the United Arab Emirates signed three contracts in the areas of security services, operation management, ground handling, and aviation systems and technology on Thursday.
The contract was signed by Mohammad Qasim Wafayezada, Head of Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority, and Mansoor Al-Mansoori, Chief Operating Officer of Group 42 of the UAE in the presence of President Ashraf Ghani, the national security advisor Hamdullah Mohib, and Acting Minister of Finance Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal at the Presidential Palace on Thursday afternoon.
The Presidential Palace said in a statement that Ataullah Nasib, Head of Investment Facilitation Unit of Office of the President said UAE’s Group 42 develop and deploy high-impact industry solutions in the sectors of aviation, energy, healthcare, oil and gas, and extractive industry, adding that the company showed willingness and commitment to enter into cooperation with Afghanistan in areas related to civil aviation, mainly for Afghanistan’s four international airports.
Terming the contracts ‘truly strategic, President Ashraf Ghani said, “We celebrated the birth of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) this morning and signed strategic cooperation agreement with the UAE company in the afternoon.”
He added that historical and political relations between Afghanistan and UAE can be named as ‘comprehensive economic partnership’.
President Ghani said, unfortunately, the great potentials at Afghanistan international airports haven’t been utilized. He stressed that the government has entered into cooperation with G42 as the company has great experiences in the fields of security services, ground handling, and aviation systems and technology.
“I am confident that officials, service personnel of airports, clients, and our people will feel the tangible changes upon implementation of these contracts,” Ghani added.
“Our airports are our vital infrastructures so we need to ensure standard service delivery which is essential in terms of operation management and ground handling,” added the president while underlining that export of Afghan products through air corridor should meet those standards.
President Ghani highlighted that Hamid Karzai International Airport has great potentials to turn into a cargo platform.
He added that international airports of Kandahar and Herat can serve as connection points with UAE and Mawlana Jalaluddin Balkhi airport can link Afghanistan to Central Asia, which altogether create a suitable network of airports.
Meanwhile, Mansoor Al-Mansoori stated that the contracts would create more opportunities for cooperation between Afghan and UAE institutions.
He noted that Afghanistan and UAE enjoy historical and friendly ties that have been further consolidated within recent years.
New pine nut plant will boost Paktia economy and provide 1,000 jobs
For many Paktia residents struggling to earn a living, the new Rahim Gardezi pine nut processing plant will bring much relief.
According to provincial officials, 90 percent of construction work is complete and the plant will soon be officially opened.
Naser Alam Yar, Paktia Chamber of Commerce’s chief, says the factory will employ 1,000 people and process about 60,000 tonnes of pine nuts a year.
For local residents this is good news – especially after agriculture officials in the southeastern province said recently that this year’s pine nut harvest totalled around 13,000 tons — up about 1,000 tons compared to last year.
Bahadur Mangal, a pine nut trader in Paktia province, told Pajhwok Afghan News that modern agriculture methods still need to be introduced in order for farmers to increase their harvests.
He said however that pine nut harvesting was an important source of income for hundreds of people in the province but that yields could increase if plantations were expanded.
About two years ago President Ashraf Ghani pledged to help turn Paktia’s economy around by starting up a pine nut processing factory and launching other viable projects.
However, residents have said they are still waiting for economic development projects to be launched in the province.
Saffron flower harvesting process underway in Helmand
In order to promote saffron cultivation in Helmand province, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) set up 12 model farms in the province last year and farmers are now harvesting their “gold”.
“Saffron cultivation in Helmand has been successful, I hope it grows [throughout] Helmand in future,” said Zalmai Alko, the provincial director of agriculture.
Alko says they established 12 model farms in Helmand to promote saffron cultivation, and farmers tending the crops have been provided with the necessary equipment. He also said these farmers were in desperate need of assistance and will now hopefully be able to move forward and earn a living from saffron.
He said that creating jobs for these farmers was a key driving force behind the establishment of the farms.
According to him, the Helmand climate is suitable for saffron cultivation and he hopes saffron farming will become more prolific in the province.
Last year, 15 saffron farms were established as part of the pilot program in Helmand, which have now yielded results, Alko said.
Helmand is infamous for the proliferation of poppy farming for opium which ends up around the world as heroin and over the years the Afghan government has tried to encourage poor farmers to move away from the illicit cultivation of poppies and switch instead to crops including wheat and pomegranates – and now, hopefully, also saffron.
The saffron flower has purple petals, yellow stamens and a three-part red-orange stigma that becomes the saffron strands.
It is usually only harvested once a year in other parts of the country, but agriculture experts believe that due to the Helmand climate, saffron might grow year-round in the province, allowing for two harvests a year.
Currently one kilogram of saffron costs about $6,000 in the region and as much as $8,000 on international markets. Growing saffron may therefore potentially be very lucrative for farmers.
India to build Shahtoot dam in Kabul
India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar announced on Tuesday at the Geneva Conference 2020 that his country will build a new dam to provide Kabul residents with safe drinking water.
Addressing delegates virtually, Jaishankar said the Shahtoot dam will help supply Kabul residents with water.
“I am happy to announce today an agreement with Afghanistan for building the Shahtoot dam which will provide safe drinking water to two million Kabul residents.
He also said India will launch phase four of a high impact community development program in Afghanistan, which includes around 150 projects worth $80 million dollars.
He stated India has invested heavily in peace and development in Afghanistan but said his country calls for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire.
“We also believe that the peace process must be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.”
A feasibility study for the dam was reportedly finalized in 2012 and the estimated cost will be around $236 million.
This dam would also allow for irrigation systems to cover 4,000 hectares of land in the Charasiab and Khairabad districts of Kabul province.
Once complete, officials said the dam will hold 146 million cubic meters of potable water for two million people in Kabul and irrigation water for over 4,000 hectares of land.
India has played a major role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime and has invested over $2 billion in various reconstruction and infrastructure projects.
In 2016, Ghani and Indian Prime Minister inaugurated the Indian-funded “Friendship Dam” in Heart Province, which can also irrigate over 80,000 hectares of land and provide electricity to thousands of homes in the western Afghan province of Herat.
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