Afghanistan has comparative and competitive strengths in the agriculture sector, particularly in the horticulture and livestock sub‐sectors, in which women are known to participate largely in the primary stages of production and processing. Orchard fruits such as grapes/raisins and almonds have significant potential for growth in export, while saffron, a relatively new main crop, has great value and the potential to compete with poppy cultivation. Until the late 1970s Afghanistan supplied 20% of the raisins on the global market, held a dominant position in pistachio and dried fruit production, and produced livestock and wool products for the regional markets. The intermicent periods of conflict since the late 1970s combined with periodic droughts have resulted in loss of agriculturally productive land and weakened productive capacity due to flight of capital, displacement of farming communities, neglect of irrigation channels, diminished technical and market support and, ultimately, loss of market share.
The Government, supported by a host of international donors, has commiced to measurable improvements in women’s economic opportunities and access to and control over productive assets and income. However, there is insufficient precise and reliable knowledge about gender relations in agricultural production and the potential for women to assume a more central role. The reconstruction of the agriculture sector in Afghanistan requires identifying system resiliencies and establishing “what works” despite the insurmountable barriers confronted by the sector over the years while actively pursuing innovative alternatives to expand the scope of current activities and increase gender equity and productivity.
The paper has two broad goals. First, to establish the extent to which women contribute to social and economic value-‐adding activities in the agriculture sector based on current incentives, linkages, habits, practices, routines, technologies, and policies. Second, to identify the pathways through which intervention in the current arrangements is likely to have the desired impact of mainstreaming women in agricultural innovation while increasing economic output.