Japan recently conducted a training program in India on crop diversification in Afghanistan as part of its third-country training initiative in collaboration with partner countries, according to Tokyo’s development aid agency.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency invited 12 Afghan government officials to train in Himachal Pradesh, following its successful support for the Indian government to increase farmland and raise farmers’ income over a period of more than 10 years.

Himachal Pradesh, a hilly state at the foot of the Himalayas, “has been selected because of its similarity in terms of agro climate to Afghanistan,” JICA told NNA in an emailed statement.

The training is the first of its kind as a joint initiative between JICA offices in India and Afghanistan for the capacity development of Afghan officials, the agency said.

Due to similar agro-ecological conditions, the two offices jointly arranged a cross-learning opportunity for Afghan officials in collaboration with both the Indian central and state governments, it said.

Through decade-long efforts by the Indian state with JICA’s soft loans and technical assistance, about 1,000 hectares have been shifted to vegetable cultivation and some of the farmers reported that their income level has significantly increased, according to JICA.

The northern Indian state has emerged as the leading producer of off-season vegetables, realizing the importance of commercial crops, and is famous for its quality fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, leaf vegetables and mangos, which also abound in Afghanistan, the agency said.

While having no specific plan to launch another joint initiative for Afghan officials in India, JICA said it may examine the possibility of formulating a new training program in consultation with Indian authorities in the future if there is “any good match like the first case.”

JICA has been providing Afghan government officials with many capacity development opportunities in other countries too.

It has been assisting war-torn Afghanistan in its reconstruction and stabilization efforts through various technical cooperation and grant aid projects since 2002 in such areas as infrastructure, agriculture and rural development as well as human development in education and health among other fields.

The Japanese government has provided $5.79 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since 2001, according to a Foreign Ministry statement in April 2015.

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