Panjshir’s Berry Sweet Deal

Yellow baskets dot rugged Panjshir hillsides during the mulberry harvest. After collection, the berries are trucked to Kabul for
Yellow baskets dot rugged Panjshir hillsides during the mulberry harvest. After collection, the berries are trucked to Kabul for processing into juice, turning fruit that would otherwise have gone to waste into income for hundreds of farmers.
USAID/LTC Donald Settle
Novel USAID incentive promotes a new product, creates vital farm income, and boosts the agribusiness capacity of local officials
4 NOVEMBER 2011 | PANJSHIR, AFGHANISTAN
 
With USAID assistance, local government learns how to help farmers market local produce.
 
A creative USAID project has transformed Panjshir Valley mulberries—an underexploited crop that routinely supplied sweet treats to local villagers, but mostly went to rot—into a welcome source of farm income.
 
After learning that tons of mulberries were going to waste—up to 70 percent of the total crop—members of the U.S.-led Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team worked closely with the Directorate of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock and extension agents to bring to market a new product, mulberry juice. This solution would generate much-needed farm revenue.
 
To seal a deal between Panjshir’s farmers and a Kabul-based commercial fruit processor willing to test market the juice, USAID contributed a few cents per kilogram for the mulberries to reduce the buyer’s business risk while protecting the farmers’ earnings. To
 
ensure product quality, USAID leased refrigerated transportation and to verify collection, packing, weighing, and payment, USAID staff accompanied shipments. Helping to build capacity, the Kentucky Agriculture Development Team advised Afghan government officials how to manage logistics and streamline collection of the fruit.
 
Mirza Rahim, one of 655 Panjshir Valley farmers who sold mulberries to Kabul for the first time, said, “It’s a source of quick income, so people like me can afford our children’s education and other personal expenses.”
 
By harvest’s end, nearly 100 metric tons of Panjshir mulberries had been shipped for processing. But more sustainable than the season’s unexpected profits, is the experience gained. The Directorate of Agriculture and farmers applied what they learned from their mulberry success and independently negotiated the sale of another Panjshir crop—apricots.

Last updated: January 06, 2014

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