Women in Afghanistan are organizing farming unions to gain pay and respect despite living in areas prone to famine.
According to a New York Times article published Thursday, the women are working with the Ministry of Agriculture to provide training, sample plots and improved seeds to union members as they diversify the crops they grow. The Shibar district now has eight farmers’ unions of about 30 women each.
The effort is one of many to decrease dependence on foreign aid—though much of its implementation relies on non-profits—alongside higher tariffs and easier flow of commerce between villages and markets. The New York Times cites a study that with more support, the ministry could create 2 to 3 million new agriculture jobs.
Potatoes used to be the staple crop, but after its price dropped from overproduction, the unions—recognized in 2013—began growing cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, beans and other fruits and vegetables for a more sustainable income and diversified diet.
Beyond raising their pay, the women told the New York Times that, “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’” and are seen as essential community figures.