Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Dairy Farming Cash Cow for Afghan Women

Venture proves that even a single bucket of milk can turn a profit
By Khan Wali Ahmadzai

Mother-of-six Hameeda was widowed three years ago when a mine killed her husband Arif, a national police officer, in the course of his duty.

For two years, she begged on the streets and outside mosques to support her family, enduring daily verbal abuse and the threat of violence. But now, thanks to a small loan, she has been able to build up a business that in turn has saved dozens of other women from penury.

“I don’t know how to read or write but I understand household economics very well, “ said Hameeda, who used the 50,000 Afghani (730 US dollars) from an NGO to buy a cow. From selling its milk to shops and private homes, she was able to save enough money to buy another four cows.  

“With this experience of looking after animals, I thought about setting up a dairy collection centre, where many other illiterate and disadvantaged women could work alongside me,” she continued.

Hameeda said that every day now, around 1,000 litres of milk were collected from villages and cattle farms in the area and brought to Pul-e-Alam. She then sent the milk to the capital Kabul for processing.

Logar province is only around 60 kilometres to the south of Kabul, making it relatively easy to transport produce on a daily basis.

“Right now, 20 needy women are engaged in this work and earn hundreds of Afghanis each day which allows them to support their whole households,” Hameeda said.  

One of the women working in the dairy, Seddiqa, said that although she could afford to keep only one cow she still made a tidy profit from selling its milk.

“I get one bucket and sometimes two buckets of milk from my cow each day and we sell it to the dairy collecting centre,” she said. “There is a lot of benefit in doing this.”

"Every day, I earn around 650 Afghanis (ten dollars) from dairy sales, and through this I manage to fund my daily needs,” said another woman, Shabnam.

Hameeda’s own fortunes have improved to the extent that she was now able to live in decent accommodation in the city and send her two sons and four daughters to school.

She volunteered to help advise any other women interested in setting up a similar venture in their own areas.

“If village women were to receive trainings on dairy collection, upkeep and marketing, then their production and income would both be doubled,” she said.

Experts said that investment in such activities could make a difference in the rural areas of the province.

“Logar is an agricultural province and most residents are engaged in farming and livestock activities,” said Nasreen, an economist. “If they receive trainings on dairy collection, processing and marketing, both their yield and income could be increased.”

Hameeda said that she had a good working relationship with Logar’s department of agriculture, irrigation and livestock, although they had yet to provide any formal support.

Mohmmaddin Mohmand, Logar’s director of agriculture, irrigation and livestock told IWPR that the ministry’s Kabul headquarters intended to provide hundreds of farmers with training on livestock farming and dairy production in the next year.

 “Farmers are now making more money from dairy than in the past,” he said, adding, “This year, we’re planning to provide trainings in various fields as well as distributing medicines to farmers.”

This report was produced under IWPR’s Supporting Investigative Reporting in Local Media and Strengthening Civil Society across Afghanistan initiative, funded by the British Embassy Kabul.