Three years ago Tahera couldn't feed her children or send them to school. Then she started growing vegetables in her backyard and now the businesswoman is providing for her whole family, making extra money on the side selling her pickled products and fresh vegetables to delis in Kabul.
Tahera is one of more than 6000 Afghan women who have partaken in a United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) programme to strengthen women's role in agriculture. Many of the women produce pickles or dried products in their homes while others sell fresh produce in markets close to their houses. “The program is running in three different zones, covering 180 villages across 12 different provinces," says Mahbobah Ayubi, the FAO representative for nutrition and women's food security in Afghanistan.
Green light for women farmers
Rahmanah was also unemployed three years ago. Now she supports her family from the produce she grows in her garden. She encourages other women to establish small private farms in order to be economically independent, which they are: especially in northern and western Afghanistan, where many women have received training as apiarists, livestock herders and in growing alternative crops. The FAO's programme works together with a special department within the Ministry of Culture, which helps identify women in vulnerable positions to prioritise those in need.
"With the help of local representatives we locate poor local women, then we conduct an interview with her to make sure she is really is eligible for our support, and subsequently we also provide some training for the eligible women selected to receive our support," says Liloma Acbari, head of the Family Economy and Improved Nutrition unit at the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture. "Women who are widows or who don’t have guardians to support them to raise their children," are prioritised for training, adds Acbari.
Acbari says raising chickens in particular has been very profitable for women. "We provide them with grains and foods for their chickens, as well as the tools needed for raising chickens," she says. Additionally, female participants in the programme have been trained in home gardening, saffron farming, food processing, mushroom harvesting and beekeeping, Acbari told Afghanistan Today.
Women have always toiled in agriculture in Afghanistan, albeit with little societal recognition or empowerment. Ayubi says the aim of the FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture's programmes are "to promote the roles that women are playing" in agriculture.
Soil to sale
Tahera's products are already in high demand in the capital, according to Murad, who runs a shop selling pickles in Kabul's 10th District. "Because of the freshness of the vegetables people love buying the products," says Murad.
Now Tahera says she needs marketing support to ensure her products are sold in more stores and calls on the government to provide it.