Helping Women Help Themselves

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Poultry and dairy farming courses enable Afghan women to support themselves

Insurgents killed Babo’s husband three years ago, and soon after the grieving widow’s four sons left home as well. There was little work for them in their home district of Arghandab in Afghanistan’s volatile southern province of Kandahar. Babo’s sons headed for the city but their remittances home were sporadic. “My children sent money when they can, but I couldn’t always rely on it,” recalls Babo.
Babo was the ideal candidate for USAID-supported classes that taught small-scale poultry farming. Along with one hundred other women, Babo learned how to raise chickens and sell eggs. Each received a ‘starter kit’ of 40 chicks and the materials to build a chicken coop. Now, Babo sells eggs twice a week in the local market.

“It makes a difference,” she says, “egg money is something I can depend on, I can meet my basic living expenses. In time I want to have 200 chickens and become entirely self-sufficient.”

It was much the same story for Farzaneh, a widow in Dand district. She owned three cows but they did not produce much milk. Farzaneh and other women in Dand were taught how to keep cattle healthy, improve milk output and make cheese and butter to sell. Farzaneh says the results were dramatic. On the very first day of training, she found out why her cows produced such little milk. They were thirsty because she had continued her late husband’s practice of giving them water just once a day. “It was so simple,” says Farzaneh, “they just wanted more water. So I put them in a place where they could drink all they wanted. Within a week they were producing a lot more milk.”

USAID also offers computer literacy and business software courses to prepare Afghanistan’s women to work in the business and government sectors.