FAO in Afghanistan

Gulsoom’s garden boosts her confidence and brings fortune to the family

Bibi Gulsoom collects vegetables from her garden in Afghanistan's Faryab Province. ©FAO/NAC

The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, together with the effects of COVID-19 outbreak and an unprecedented drought across the country, have led to high levels of unemployment and lost livelihoods among most Afghan families.

Like many other Afghans, Bibi Gulsoom’s husband lost his job and became a casual labourer. Since there wasn't much work available in the market, Sayed Samiullah earned a tiny income that wasn’t enough to regularly feed his children.

“We lived in poverty and our life had become full of misery. My husband could only afford to get us food once a day, we would stay hungry for the rest of the time,” Gulsoom said explaining her living conditions.

As a mother of nine children from Qaisar District in the northern Faryab Province, Gulsoom always desired to support her husband to make a decent living for the family. Opportunities were scarce for her as a woman from a conservative community. Her seven sons and two daughters were very keen to get an education hoping to improve the family’s situation in the future. However, the difficult conditions of the family have stopped them from achieving their dream.

Gulsoom was surprised to know that she can make an income from selling home-grown vegetables in the local market. FAO’s home gardening assistance, funded by the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AHF), enabled her to grow vegetables for domestic consumption and sell some in the market.

“I received vegetable seeds and basic tools to establish my own garden. I also attended the training on home gardening where I learned how to cultivate and grow vegetables at home,” Gulsoom said.

The assistance included high-quality certified cabbage, turnip, tomato, eggplant, okra, squash, cauliflower and red radish seeds, as well as gardening tools and related training on vegetable cultivation.

Gulsoom’s husband supports her by taking the vegetables to the nearby market for sale. Her family can now consume a variety of vegetables that they couldn’t afford to buy before, improving the household’s diet. The income from selling the vegetables helps with improving her family’s financial situation for between four to six months.

“I have seen positive changes in my life. We had difficulty buying vegetables because of our poor economic condition. There is no need to spend money on buying vegetables now since we grow them at home,” she said.

The assistance also boosted Gulsoom’s confidence in making a contribution to her family’s wellbeing. She is planning to spend some of the income on her children’s education as she wants all her children to be able to attend school.

FAO provided food insecure families with vegetable/home gardening cultivation inputs and related training to boost domestic cultivation and consumption of a variety of vegetables. This not only improved the nutritious food intake, it also boosted each household's income by USD 60-80 per month for up to five months.