Learning How To Grow A Business

Koko Shirin checks on the cabbages growing in her greenhouse
Koko Shirin checks on the cabbages growing in her greenhouse
Backyard greenhouses to cultivate off-season vegetables are just one of the creative ways devised to help Afghan women earn a living from their land
Koko Shirin is looking to literally grow her business. She cultivates off-season vegetables in the greenhouse in her backyard. Each harvest brings in good money, a key consideration for a woman who is her family’s sole provider.
Ms Shirin’s home-based business started as an idea. In fall 2012, USAID’s Incentives Driving Economic Alternatives for the North, East and West (IDEA-NEW) program recruited 35 women in the northeast Afghan province of Takhar to test out greenhouse designs for off-season cultivation. Participants were helped to build their own greenhouses, using local materials. Female agronomists taught the women the basics and tips and tricks of cultivating off-season vegetables.
It was first time Ms Shirin had grown vegetables in a greenhouse. “I am very happy with the results,” she says, recalling the high prices fetched by her off-season cucumbers and cabbages. “My sales were about 20,000 AFN ($400), which is a lot of money.”
IDEA-NEW promotes long-term agricultural development and alternative livelihoods for farmers that result in a sustainable, thriving agricultural economy. Its gender-focused work emphasizes capacity-building training and creates culturally appropriate income-generating livelihoods for women whenever possible. This includes backyard greenhouses, smallholder egg production, kitchen gardens and rearing silkworms.
For Ms Shirin, the experience was life-changing. “Perhaps the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to make the most of the little land I have, by selling my harvest when market prices are high,” she says. For instance, Ms Shirin has learned to plan for and embrace change. That is why ahead of the spring planting season, she plans to grow tomato, eggplant, okra and pepper seedlings for sale to local farmers. She believes that good quality seedlings will be more profitable than vegetables during the planting season. It is a reasonable calculation and suits a growing business.

Last updated: January 16, 2015

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