Agriculture is a major source of employment in Afghanistan, and raisin and pomegranate production in particular are commodities with high potential for growth. But Afghan farmers face a number of issues, including limited presence in international markets and lack of technical expertise in harvesting, sorting, and drying their crops. As a result, farmers yield harvests below their potential, and see lower returns on their investment.
In 2006, IFC began a pilot project with 10 raisin farmers and 50 pomegranate farmers, building modern drying houses and training them to improve post-harvest activities such as cleaning, sorting, grading, and packing their crop. The farmers participated in a trade mission to Dubai to view international wholesale markets and see the products offered by other countries.
In 2008, the project was scaled up to reach 100 grape farmers and 1,400 pomegranate farmers, who were able to improve their post-harvest practices, sell their product at a much higher price, and export to new markets in New Delhi and Mumbai.
As next steps, IFC will assess how to add value to farmers’ crops through processing, as well as evaluate farmers’ need to access finance to improve operations.
IFC sought to work with raisin and pomegranate farmers in Kandahar because of the potential for producing superior quality crops. Forty agricultural specialists were identified and given six months technical training in harvesting and production of the crops. Prior to the pilot phase, IFC conducted a scoping mission, and found that modernizing the raisin drying houses would allow farmers to complete two production cycles per season. The scoping mission also found that by focusing on quality and packing pomegranate farmers could also increase productivity and sales.
IFC connected with local small businesses to provide the materials needed to build the modern drying houses and used IFC’s Business Edge management training workshops to train extension workers on the basics of budgeting and accounting. Workshops were conducted in Pashtu and used local examples to teach farmers how to manage expenses and revenues. Two technical manuals were produced (one for each commodity) that cover aspects of farming related to quality with specific attention to post-harvest activities.
During the project, extension workers sought to build a successful business model that could be replicated in five districts of Kandahar and reach a wider audience of farmers. IFC worked with Afghan exporters and identified potential Indian importers interested in working with the Afghan exporters. The farmers learned sorting and packaging techniques that would appeal to international markets, and were linked to exporters.
As a result, the time needed to produce raisins was cut by 50 percent, and waste was reduced to 15 percent from roughly 35 percent. Increased production and higher quality resulted in sales to India of roughly $4 million worth of raisins and pomegranates produced by these farmers. Women benefited indirectly: while none received training directly, male family members who participated in the project trained them in post-harvest production, an area where women on family farms often contribute.
To make the project sustainable, Afghan extension workers have formed an association and continued to provide fee-based training and technical assistance to raisin and pomegranate farmers in Kandahar since the completion of the project in 2012.
Results & Impact *
$4 million worth of raisins and pomegranates exported to Indian markets by farmers involved in the project.
Over 60 percent increase in sale price due to higher yields and more efficient sorting, grading, and packing.
1,500 farmers and 40 extension workers were trained in modern production techniques.
Established linkages between farmers and Afghan exporters, who introduced them to new markets in India and connected the farmers to interested importers there.
Doubled local farmers' raisin output with introduction of 110 new drying houses.