Through a farming project in Afghanistan, 100 vulnerable women are learning income generating skills and business management including vegetable cultivation, food processing and using new agricultural technology, enabling them to produce and package their vegetables for the market.
Women leading change
Driving down the historic Dar-ul-aman road, the remnants of King Amanullah’s Palace serve as a stark reminder of the days of war and instability in Kabul. Continue a little further and you will see an 80-acre expanse where 100 women are managing a farm through WFPs asset creation support in a partnership with UNDP and the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livelihood (MAIL). What makes this farm special is not just its location, but also the fact that it is Afghanistan’s first female-managed organic farm.
Dar-ul-aman palace provides an impressive backdrop but for women like Nooria, the crops she can produce have a far greater impact © WFP/Fezeh Hosseini
As part of this six-month project which started in April 2016, 100 vulnerable women are being trained in various income generating skills such as vegetable cultivation, food processing and using new agricultural technology, enabling them to produce and package their vegetables for the market. These skills will help them earn money, feed their families and increase their self-sufficiency.
Everyone has a story
The women involved all have a unique story to tell, whether they are the main breadwinners in their families, women who have returned after being displaced by conflict, or indeed those who are still away from their homes due to ongoing conflict.
Nooria, 45, says her main motivation to work on the farm is to put her five daughters through school. She has lived in a rental house in Kabul since she left her home in Logar province. “I have to wait another two months for the harvest so I can process and sell the vegetables in the market,” says Nooria. “It is a long time to wait but it makes me happy when I think about the money that I will earn at the end.”
Nooria receives her food ration for working on the farm © WFP/Fezeh Hosseini
Throughout the course of the project the women receive food assistance from WFP, which includes a monthly supply of 83 kilos of food including fortified wheat flour, pulses, fortified vegetable oil, and iodized salt. The project also provided employment for 240 men, who spent a month clearing the land for cultivation.
MAIL provides technical support and farming land, while WFP and UNDP jointly implement the project through the local Women Agriculture Producers Group. This partnership not only empowers women at community level but also develops the capacity of the local trainers who help Afghan women learn marketable skills.
“I grew onions, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and radishes on the plot of land allocated for me, and it is so green now! I would not have thought it was possible,” says Zubaida, a 40-year-old mother of five. Her husband is ill so she has to earn money to look after her family.
Originally from the Laal-o-SareJangal district of Ghor province, Zubaida and her family were forced to move to Kabul due to insecurity and unemployment seven years ago. She walks a long way every morning and evening to get to the farm. On top of her work in the farm, she produces tomato paste – an essential for Afghan cooking – to sell in the market or to her neighbours.
Zubaida works full time to produce quality vegetables for selling in the market © WFP/Fezeh Hosseini
To ensure the sustainability of the project until 2017, beneficiaries will also receive business management training and machinery to process and pack the food products and sell them on national and international markets. Pending a positive evaluation of the project, the Afghan government is considering extending it for another three years.
WFPs assets creation support aims to mitigate the impact of natural disasters, build and strengthen the resilience of communities to shocks, and restore people’s livelihoods by increasing the overall productivity of soil, and upgrading irrigation systems to improve agricultural infrastructure.
Story and pictures © WFP/Fezeh Hosseini