FAO in Afghanistan

FAO Creates Resilient Livelihood for Youth in Small Scale Food Production

A woman in Char Asiab district of Kabul, assisted by FAO, is preparing her cow's milk for sending to the milk collection center. ©FAO/Zia Najeeb

FAO launched the Dairy Industry Development Project in Afghanistan in 2014 to target some of the poorest families in order to reduce their vulnerability to climate change. The country’s four dairy unions, supported by FAO, currently have 3771 registered members (1690 of them youth). Approximately 48.74 percent (1640) of the unions’ members are women with a total of 390 young women. The FAO dairy project supports farmers (both men and women), helping them to collect 16 859 155 liters of quality milk in the years 2014-2022, generating revenues of AFN 500 582 280 (around USD 5 656 296) for farmers.

The Dairy Industry Development model consists of a dairy value chain – managed by the union as an enterprise – that encompasses milk production, collection, processing and marketing of pasteurized milk and dairy products. Inputs and services are organized around these activities.

This initiative supports women in becoming economically active in ways that will benefit their households and in developing economic opportunities that will improve livestock production and agricultural lands through the adoption of climate-resilient inputs, technologies and processes.

In Afghanistan, the first phase of the dairy value chain – milk production – is almost exclusively handled by young and adult women, while men play various roles along the value chain. The unions are exclusively run by men. Prior to the project, young and adult women were sometimes engaged in the marketing of milk, but results were limited as many of them faced hurdles in selling their products due to gender-based norms. In this respect, significant progress has been achieved by the project through support to young and adult women in establishing milk collection centers near their homes to sell their products.

Another major success of the project has been the establishment of 40 self-help groups (SHGs), with more than 657 members in Kabul, Parwan and Logar provinces. Between them, the groups accumulated total savings of AFN 1 183 990 (USD 15 580) between 2015 and 2022. These groups encourage young and adult women from different dairy cooperatives to come together to exchange experiences and receive training in finding linkages with local markets. Members of these small groups, which follow the norms of democratic self-governance, meet at regular intervals (weekly, bi-weekly or monthly) and contribute a small sum of money per person (for example AFN 20, 50 or 100 [USD 0.20, 0.50 or 1]) to a communal fund that will help to provide financial support to members in need. An SHG’s money can be loaned out to members of the group under agreed conditions, to help them launch or develop small enterprises. Through these groups, members have diversified their income beyond the dairy sector and between 2015 and 2022, they sold additional products to diary for a total revenue AFN 5 810 000 (USD 63 245). Furthermore, they increased their market sales, gained financial independence and learned new skills.

As well as helping members to increase their incomes, SHGs also enable participants to build up a socio-financial safety network on which they can rely when experiencing social or economic difficulties. The central idea behind the self-help group approach is to tackle poverty, enable social and economic empowerment and support the advancement of gender equality. Many positive social impacts are already visible during the first years of SHG implementation, such as the development of group solidarity and social as well as economic networks that can support members’ families.

The technical support provided by the Dairy Industry Development initiative has helped to reduce milk losses, by introducing refrigeration systems along the dairy value chain. The approach adopted has made a strong contribution to empowering the young women taking part, by offering them an opportunity to sell products safely at village level and to receive a reliable weekly cash income from sales.


A longer version of this piece was originally published on FAO Climate Change website.