Farm to Market: Seeding Afghan Women Entrepreneurs

Farm to Market: Seeding Afghan Women Entrepreneurs

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Last Update: December 9, 2013

GPFA will provide hands-on training, materials, equipment and access to local markets to enable small-scale Afghan women farmers to become successful business owners, in wholesale distribution, dried & fresh produce packaging, honey, fruit and vegetable production, and other value added activities.

Founded: 2004 Type: citizen sector

The Problem

Although women represent over 50% of farm labor in conservative, rural Afghanistan, they have long been denied the economic benefit of their work. GPFA believes that women must have access to the same resources, knowledge and opportunities as men in order to build, grow and sustain their farm businesses. A major inhibitor of farm business growth is lack of access to lucrative markets, which is a key area this project addresses.

The Solution

This project will build on past successes by working with a select group of Afghan women entrepreneurs—20 initially—who are ready to scale up their micro-enterprises into small and medium-sized businesses. GPFA’s team of women staff will provide the hands-on training, materials and ongoing support needed to take each business to the next level. Typical businesses include beekeeping, wholesale distribution (gathering produce from multiple farmers and re-selling it in larger markets that are otherwise inaccessible to farm women), improved produce drying and packaging techniques, and conversion from micro, multi-crop farming to a focus on one or more crops for which that woman farmer is highly regarded and can earn cash.

Example

Meet Rabia. In 2012, funded with grants from the US Dept. of State’s Women’s Empowerment Fund, GPFA’s women’s program team visited dozens of villages in central Afghanistan where they met women like Rabia, who at age 25 is the main breadwinner for her ten siblings and parents. With GPFA’s help, Rabia transformed herself from a small farmer growing and selling “the best black plums in the region” to become a trusted wholesaler of produce grown by other women in her community. Her training from GPFA taught her to focus on quality, packaging, distribution and marketing as key to a successful business. Now, her biggest wish for the future of Afghanistan is women's empowerment. “I really want to see women move forward by themselves,” she says.

Impact

Since 2004, GPFA has launched or enhanced 30,000 farm enterprises, including 9,300 women-owned. In the more than 2,500 villages where GPFA has worked, GPFA's insistence on creating business opportunities for women has been accepted and increasingly supported by male leaders. Nevertheless, it has become clear that a special focus on strengthening the earning power of women is critical to the country’s future. Empowering rural women to increase their incomes enhances their communities' security, stability and determination to discourage extremism. More children go to school, and other women are inspired to emulate the women role models they know. GPFA’s current programs support over 900 women farm producers, wholesalers, and small business owners. This project will help take this work to the next level and move even more women up the agricultural value chain.

Budget: $100,000 - $250,000

Sustainability Plan

A $25,000 grant from Ashoka would help move us closer toward our initial budget of $100,000 to support 20 women entrepreneurs and would give us a credible boost to leverage funds from other donors. Additional partnerships with universities, local businesses, and other NGOs will augment the financial support this project receives. Afghan women teach other women what they have learned, dramatically multiplying the impact of our direct support.

Marketplace

Other NGOs address agriculture in Afghanistan, including past GPFA partners like Mercy Corps, MADERA, and Roots of Peace; however, most organizations don’t give due focus to women’s economic empowerment in the agriculture sector and don't provide the "value chain" support that is critical for creating a sustainable agricultural ecosystem. That is the aim of this project. GPFA’s entire Kabul-based staff is Afghan. They undertake all projects in consultation with local governing bodies. This allows GPFA's programs to flourish and be in high demand even in challenging conditions.

Founding Story

GPFA Founder and Board Chair Dana Freyer’s first job as assistant to the Afghan ambassador to the UN was when she “fell in love with the Afghan people.” She still recalls the dense forests and lush agricultural landscapes she and her husband found when they visited the country for the first time in 1972. When they returned again in 2003, “I was aghast at what I saw,” Dana recalls. “Everywhere farms, fields and trees were completely devastated.” In the wake of 9/11, Dana decided to do something to help bring Afghanistan back. Though many organizations were focused on building infrastructure, none were doing something much simpler: planting trees and supporting farmers. In 2004, GPFA was born.

Team Members

Challenges

Women Powering Work: Innovations for Economic Equality in the MENA Region

Innovation

Elevator Pitch: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences. Share a concise summary. This will be the first introductory text about your solution that viewers will see.

GPFA will provide a select group of small-scale Afghan women farmers with the training, materials, equipment and access to larger markets needed to become successful business entrepreneurs/owners, in wholesale distribution, dried & fresh produce packaging, honey, and fruit and vegetable production.

Problem: What problem is this solution trying to solve? Describe the specific context within which this solution operates.

Although women represent over 50% of farm labor in patriarchal, rural Afghanistan, they have long been denied the economic benefit of their work. GPFA believes that women must have access to the same opportunities as men in order to build, grow and sustain their farm businesses and build a more stable society. A major inhibitor of women's farm business growth is lack of access to lucrative markets, which is a key area this project addresses.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Be specific!

This project will build on past successes by working with a select group of Afghan women entrepreneurs—20 initially—who are ready to scale up their micro-enterprises into small and medium-sized businesses. GPFA’s team of women staff will provide the hands-on training, business contacts, materials and ongoing support needed to take each business to the next level. Typical businesses include wholesale distribution (gathering produce from multiple farmers and re-selling it in larger markets that are otherwise inaccessible to farm women), improved produce drying and packaging techniques, beekeeping, and conversion from micro, multi-crop farming to a focus on one or more crops for which that woman farmer is highly regarded and can earn cash.

Women Powering Work

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following challenges?

Training and education such as skills workshops, entrepreneurship courses, apprenticeship opportunities

Does your project utilize any of the strategies below?

Creating partnerships with complementary businesses that will help your beneficiaries have more impact - such as creating a daycare center that supports a businesses

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