Farm to Market: Seeding Afghan Women Entrepreneurs

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Farm to Market: Seeding Afghan Women Entrepreneurs

Kabul, AfghanistanAfghanistan
Year Founded:
2004
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Scaling
Budget: 
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

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.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if Afghan women farmers could scale up their micro-enterprises and realize greater economic independence?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

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? Please 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.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

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: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

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.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

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: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Some larger NGOs address agriculture in Afghanistan, including GPFA partners like Mercy Corps, MADERA, and Roots of Peace; however, they don’t focus on 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. Also, unlike other INGOs, GPFA’s entire Kabul-based staff is Afghan and 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.
Team

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.
About You
Organization:
Global Partnership for Afghanistan
About You
First Name

Kate

Last Name

McLetchie

About Your Organization
Organization Name

Global Partnership for Afghanistan

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact

, Kabul

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Project
Year founded

2004

Impact
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date?

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.

Barriers: What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Potential barriers include insecurity and uncertainty surrounding the withdrawal of NATO troops and the April 2014 elections. However, GPFA has a reputation for our ability to work in insecure locations and uncertain environments, as our past activities demonstrate. Our strategy of engagement with multiple levels of the government and local Shura Councils ensures the project's acceptance by everyone in and around the community. Our staff is Afghan, many of whom come from the communities where we work, and therefore we do not have the same security concerns we would with an expatriate staff.

Full Impact Potential: What are the main spread strategies moving forward? (Please consider geographic spread, policy reform, and independent replication/adoption of the idea or other mechanisms.)

This project will focus on provinces where we are currently working (mainly Kapisa, Parwan, and outside of Kabul), but can be easily replicated and scaled-up throughout the country. The project also has a huge multiplier effect meaning that for every woman we train and support she becomes a role model and informal teacher for many other women in her community.

Sustainability
Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

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

Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder to get started and/or to see the potential for this to succeed.

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.

Partnerships: Tell us about your partnerships.

Current partners include: Women's Empowerment Fund, U.S. Department of State; Ministry of Women's Affairs, Afghanistan; Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock, Afghanistan; Ministry of Economy, Afghanistan; Ministry of Education, Afghanistan; Canadian Women 4 Women in Afghanistan; Mercy Corp; MADERA; European Commission; and local community development councils.

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

Comments

Khalid Alkhudair's picture

Great work you are doing, I highly commend you on this and it is truly scalable not only in Afghanistan but in other countries throughout the world. The sustainability part requires abit of work on how you as an organization remain sustainable without donations, maybe in part look at a payback scheme from these women to cover the time spent on training and giving access, otherwise it is very sustainable for the women and once again great job

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