In Afghanistan’s Farm Belt, Women Lead Unions and Find New Status

Women who are part of a farmers union last month in the Shibar Valley in Bamiyan Province, Afghanistan.

By MUJIB MASHALSource&Copyright: nytimes

Women who are part of a farmers union last month in the Shibar Valley in Bamiyan Province, Afghanistan.

SHIBAR, Afghanistan — In this lush, sleepy farm belt deep in central Afghanistan, women have been the organizing force behind a new wave of small village farm unions.

That seems to have brought some changes. In a reversal of tradition, husbands tend to walk after their wives, trailing a couple of steps behind with rolled-up sleeves and sun-beaten faces. And critically for this impoverished region, the unions have established modest supply chains at the market in the center of Bamian Province. Over just a few years, they have introduced new vegetables to their humble dinner plates.

“In the old days, only potatoes and wheat were grown here,” said Zainab Husseini, a part-time high school biology teacher and the full-time farming union leader in the village of Iraq-ulya. “Now we introduced cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, beans and other vegetables.”

The unions, in updating age-old agricultural traditions, have helped ensure a more reliable and diverse food supply in an often famine-struck region. In the process, the women who run the groups are finding new status and empowerment. They are no longer greeted as the mother of Ahmad or the wife of Mahmoud, but rather “union leader Gul Bahar” or “deputy union leader Reza Gul.”

Farmers with their wheat crop last month in the Shibar Valley.

The unions have put the women of Bamian on the front line of a critical struggle: the effort to shape a sustainable Afghan economy, away from dependence on foreign aid. Agriculture must surely be a crucial part of the program if that is to happen.

Close to 40 percent of the population remains below the poverty line of $1.35 a day, Afghan officials say. According to the World Bank, more than 80 percent …read more

From:: Hazara People