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ICARDA’s commitment to gender paying dividends in rural Afghanistan

Aug 31,2015

Women listen to a presentation in rural Afghanistan.

Women in Afghanistan comprise a majority of Afghanistan’s agricultural workforce, but are among the world’s most marginalized. Low education as well as a lack of access to training and technologies have kept women in rural parts of Afghanistan from benefitting from livelihood opportunities afforded to men.

An International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)-funded project has set out to change the fortunes of Afghan women. Earlier this year, ICARDA began conducting public awareness programmes in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL). The project began hosting field days where local farmers would be introduced to new technologies, exchange their experiences about cultivation, and discuss challenges in agriculture sector and brainstorm ways to address them.

The Community, Livestock and Agriculture Project (CLAP) aims to reduce poverty in rural Afghanistan. The project targets 169,500 rural households in selected districts in three provinces of Kabul, Parwan, and Logar by increasing agriculture and livestock productivity.

When the project hosted its first field day, it welcomed 97 local farmers--only five of whom were women.

To boost participation of Afghan women, the project began public awareness programs, which involved building trust and direct communication with communities, linking line ministries with project activities. The project also conducted informal meetings with local women’s groups and male family members, which was critical to building sustainable participation.

The results are clear. At the third field day this past July, women’s participation exceeded that of men. 104 women were in attendance, along with 100 men.

“More motivation and hard work is still needed to build their trust, but it shows that changing attitudes in rural communities about women in agriculture is possible,” said Frozan Darwish, ICARDA’s Gender Expert in Afghanistan.

Ms. Mahbobeh Hashemi, a farmer and the head of the Parwan Women Famers Seed Enterprise, said that the gender activities have increased the interest of women in the province.

“It is not the first time we’ve held a field day in Parwan, but it is the first time that we had more than 50% women.”