On a sweeping hillside in Afghanistan’s Central Highlands, we met up with Delara and her husband Ezatullah as they were weeding a large kitchen garden next to their home. “We have spinach, leeks, tomatoes, coriander, cabbage, squash, green peppers, and more!” exclaimed Delara.
Delara is one of 1,850 women in the Central Highlands whom Medair is providing with seeds and training on how to build and maintain a kitchen garden beside their homes. She has also learned of the importance of breastfeeding, nutritious food, and hygienic practices in her home. “We did not know these things before,” said Delara. “We have learned so many things from the promoters, and received so many different training sessions on hygiene, nutrition, and kitchen gardens.”
This remote region experiences harsh winters that cut off access to food markets, and families must survive on what they have been able to grow or gather over the summer months. Traditionally, families try to store enough food until the weather warms up, but they rarely succeed, leading to a dangerous ‘food gap‘, where families go hungry. Medair is working in these communities to ensure families have what they need to flourish, even in winter.
“In the winter, families used to only have bread with tea or potato soup; now they also have vegetables, giving them much more food variety, which is very good for their health,” said Omar, Medair relief worker.
As part of the kitchen garden training, women are shown how to dry vegetables so that they can eat them in the lean winter months. “We can now store food for more than six weeks, so that we also have some food in the colder months,” said Ezatullah.
“This year we will have vegetables with our bread and tea,” smiled Delara. “Now we have food diversity.”
Medair’s promoters work across villages in the Central Highlands, training and empowering women with skills and knowledge. The project has also helped empower women to look after their families in new and different ways.
“Before, people used to laugh that women had started working on the land. I was not used to holding a shovel!” said Delara. “But now they find it very interesting. It is becoming more normal, as everyone in our community is doing it. The women in the community are now very proud that they can do this, and that makes them very happy.”