Afghanistan: Congratulations to 'Father of Saffron'

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On 2 March, Mullah Haji Mohammad Akbar, famously known as 'The Father of Saffron in Afghanistan' was awarded the prestigious Wazir Akbar Khan Medal by President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace for his promotion of saffron in the western Herat province.

In 1998, Mullah Akbar became one of the first farmers to be involved in DACAAR's saffron project in Herat province. In the next decade, Mullah Akbar's enthusiasm and hard work was a key factor in DACAAR's push to promote saffron in western Afghanistan, where soil and climate conditions are optimal for saffron cultivation.

Following Mullah Akbar's example, hundreds of farmers around Herat switched from poppy to saffron production, benefiting from the high prices fetched for the world's most expensive spice crop.

With a decade of involvement in saffron production in Herat province, DACAAR's activities include distribution of saffron bulbs; on-field training for saffron farmers; research in cultivation, processing and marketing of saffron; the facilitation of four saffron grower associations (including one for female saffron growers); the establishment of links between local saffron associations and international buyers; and arrangement of two consecutive saffron conferences, bringing together farmers, NGOs, government representatives, universities and private enterprises. Additionally, in 2007 DACAAR established Afghanistan's first quality control laboratory for saffron in Herat - and subsequently handed it over to the Herat Department of Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock.

DACAAR's saffron projects are supported by Danida, DFID, ICCO and the Norwegian Embassy.

Through its short and long-term projects, and with the active participation of recipient communities, DACAAR has brought development to rural areas in 27 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. DACAAR Celebrates 25th Anniversary in 2009.