women in kitchen gardening activities

The Gardener Woman

In Afghanistan, struggling to make a decent living is not uncommon, as the country continues to grapple with decades of war and hardship. Even so, some families are particularly at risk. As one such example, thirty-year-old Razima bears the burden of being the sole provider for her family.  She lives in Badghis Province with her husband and four children. Her husband is blind, which in a rural, agricultural-based economy leaves him few, if any, opportunities to work.  The responsibility has fallen to Razima to be the breadwinner.    

Afghanistan has been a historically difficult place for women to find work.  Not only are Afghan girls often not educated a young age, those who do grow up to enter the workforce are often restricted to low paying job that do not begin to cover the cost of food and household needs.  Many more women are forbidden to work outside the home at all due to religious and cultural practices.  With UNDP estimating that as many 2.5 million women in Afghanistan live as widows (2017), with many more serving as the head of their household, and UN Women estimating that these female-led homes have household income levels 40% lower than those headed by men (2020), the need to create sources of sustainable food and income for women is crucial.

For many years the outlook for Razima was just as bleak. “There was no one to provide us food, and our children are too young to work. My husband was forced to beg for money,” Razima explains. In spite of the challenges, she always found a way to provide for her family with whatever limited resources and skills she had. 

Razima and her family live on a property with just enough land to start a small, home-based kitchen garden. With help from World Vision International and USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, she has transformed her small lot into a productive garden. This last spring, she received the necessary tools and seeds, along with training from World Vision staff, to plant a small crop of onions and potatoes in her front yard. 

Razima is thrilled with the results. “We started this garden with [the supplies we were] provided and now it is green and growing!” With a better understanding of how to cultivate and care for crops, she can now plan for multiple growing seasons: “I understood a bit about cultivation previously,” she says, “but the [World Vision] team came and trained us well. When we harvest these onions, we can plant another crop!”

Razima is one of 400 women participating in the agricultural programme, which provides assistance to families who are particularly susceptible to food insecurity. Funding from USAID has allowed participants to plant more than four hectares of vegetable and fruit gardens with crops such as potatoes, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, okra and strawberries.

While her simple garden may not provide a large yield, it is sufficient for the family. As Razima explains, “We don’t grow enough yet to sell in the market, but we are happy that this at least satisfies our daily needs.” 

Kitchen gardening

World Vision Afghanistan provides a source of food for families who are food insecure, as well as a source of some disposable income in the event that women can sell surplus crops. Under this program, 400 women have planted kitchen gardens in Badghis Province.