With the spring strawberry harvest completed and preparation for the fall harvest underway, GPFA is excited to send this dispatch from the field so you can see firsthand how your project support is being put to work.
Now in the second year of our project, we are proud to report strawberries have proven to be a highly worthwhile investment for our 500 Afghan women farmers! We are meeting our project goals by moving women up the value chain and getting them involved in sales; both strawberry producers and wholesalers are making sales and earning incomes for their families. Based on GPFA’s most recent evaluation, this income is projected to grow in subsequent years as yields continue to increase. As one farmer tells us, “I will continue selling strawberries because this fruit has more profit than other fruits and vegetables.”
Since our last report GPFA has followed both producers and wholesalers to monitor the project’s success, all the while providing additional training focused on harvesting, sales, and market connections. Afghan farmers see strawberries as a low-investment, high-return crop that earns income; the introduction of strawberry as a farm production activity has generated interest in communities where most people had never heard of strawberries before! This newfound interest has sparked innovative marketing and sales strategies as well. For instance, one entrepreneurial producer decided to sell her strawberries near a tourist area for picnickers, and as a result earned a premium over the sales price in the local bazaar shops.
With your continued support GPFA will not only ensure a successful fall harvest for these women farmers, but will be able to scale this project to train even more women strawberry producers, and wholesalers as part of our 2014-2015 cohort. On behalf of all of us at GPFA, thank you for helping us bring new agricultural and small business opportunities to Afghan farmers and their families. We couldn’t do it without you!
Thank you for your continued support of our project to help Afghan women develop their strawberry enterprises. Harvest season is right around the corner (it begins this month and will last through June) and our farmers have been working throughout the winter to protect their plants and prepare for the second season’s successful harvest.
A critical part of this project is securing market access for the strawberries. By training strawberry farmers, as well as wholesalers and production advisers, we follow the strawberry harvest to the top of the value chain. During the past few months, we made follow-up visits to our strawberry producers, distributing tool kits, as well as providing training on subjects like weed control, off-season handling, and more. We visited over 30 strawberry farms and provided instruction to farmers on how to cover the plants for survival during winter and other plant protection techniques. We were also pleased to welcome new recruits, orienting new producers who expressed an interest in strawberry farming. This project also encourages wholesalers to start their own agribusinesses. We worked further with 10 wholesalers this quarter to train them on connecting with strawberry producers in the field and potential buyers in the markets. Our end goal is to maximize the income our producers and wholesalers receive.
We continue to be inspired by the amazing Afghan women we are privileged to work with every day. We recently spoke with one of our strawberry wholesalers, Nooria, who helped her father with his produce business while growing up. Now, at the age of 19, with the support of GPFA, Nooria is running her own wholesale business to connect women strawberry producers to local and national buyers. With GPFA’s assistance, Nooria received technical training in business planning, bookkeeping, harvest handling, marketing, and financial management. We are excited to watch her business take off this season!
We hope you’ll join us in continuing to support more women farmers and small business owners like Nooria. We look forward to sending out another update this summer with highlights from the harvest season.
Although wintry temperatures linger on in Kabul, Kapisa, and Parwan, at GPFA we haven't let Mother Nature hinder our work with Afghan women farmers. After the growing season ended we turned our attention towards training and capacity-building activities to gear our farmers up for a successful second season. Recent months have found us in training sessions, visiting farms, conducting post-harvest evaluations, and much more -- and we could not have done it without your support! Thank you!
We are interested in finding out what works for our women farmers (and equally as important what doesn’t), and how we can maximize the benefits of best practices for them. Our staff conducted post-harvest surveys with 176 strawberry producers, analyzing the success and effectiveness of our distribution and production practices. The lessons from these surveys informed the content of subsequent training sessions with our farmers.
There are a multitude of elements that contribute to the high-value strawberries our farmers produce, including everything from proper land preparation and adequate irrigation, to fertilizer application, and plant protection in cold weather. Our training modules are extensive and multifaceted. We visited a number of our farms, working closely with our women farmers to teach new and improved techniques of growing, harvesting, packing, and selling fresh strawberries.
In addition to practical training for our farmers in the field, our program team received business training by Kabul University professors, which included an overview of the strawberry market value chain in Afghanistan, wholesaling business basics, and business plan development concepts. They’ll take this newfound knowledge back to the field to help even more women farmers grown their small businesses.
Again, thank you so much for your support of this project! Every donation counts and we encourage you to become a monthly donor (for as little as $10 a month!) to help us reach even more women farmers. We invite you to watch this video from the field to hear from our farmers themselves and to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates on our work.
With your continued support this project is increasing the household incomes of Afghan women strawberry farmers and has made remarkable progress during the past few months. In Kapisa, Parwan and rural Kabul, GPFA has worked directly with 500 strawberry producers and 10 wholesalers, building on their existing capacities and providing new opportunities to enhance their small to medium enterprises.
In our last report, we shared the exciting news that our first harvest was taking place, which yielded plenty of high quality strawberries and gave our farmers the first tangible evidence of all their hard work. We are still finalizing the numbers for this first harvest and look forward to sharing them with you in our next report. As strawberry season turned to a close, GPFA emphasized training wholesalers and farmers, providing the tools and knowledge needed to improve both production (for the farmers) and agribusiness practices (for the wholesalers).
Despite Afghanistan's favorable growing conditions, strawberry farming is still relatively new to the country. For this reason, technical training is essential to the project’s success. GPFA staff regularly visit strawberry farmers to provide training at their farms on topics that range from irrigation to fertilizer application to weed control, and more. Our farmers are learning to perfect their harvesting and packaging techniques and learning new ways to increase the productivity of their crop. We also provided laptop computers to wholesalers and worked with them to develop sample business plans for their agribusinesses, gearing them up to partner with women producers and linking them to potential markets. This is a unique aspect of this project, as the wholesalers provide a vital link to help farmers gain access to markets.
As the holiday season approaches, it is time to start thinking about gifts for family, friends, and work colleagues. Why not make donations in their names to this project by selecting the “Gift or in Honor of” donation option? Strawberries, in medieval times, were considered symbols of peace, and as our strawberry gardens flourish, we hope to usher in a new era of peace and prosperity for our Afghan women farmers and their families. On behalf of all of us at GPFA, thank you for continued support!
P.S. We've included with this message a link to our new video that highlights stories of our women farmers, so you can hear first-hand from the field the impact GPFA's programs are having on rural farm families.
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