For Afghan women, deprived of every right, the idea of education can seem just a mirage and something which will not be achieved in their lifetime.
During the Taleban regime from 1990 to 1996 women could not enrol for University, could not work outside of their home. To speak to a male doctor they had to stand behind a screen. They were obliged to stay at home and with the windows covered so they could not look out. Wearing of the burqa was compulsory and they could not wear shoes which made the slightest noise, nor could they wear stockings or white shoes, because white was the colour of the Taleban flag. Lipstick and make-up were banned by law and women were obliged to talk in a low quiet voice. Since those days very little has changed because the country is in the grips of a civil war, abandoned and forgotten by many and left to its own crude and cruel devices. All in all it is a disastrous situation.
“You must have faith in the future”, was what my mother said and I might add that if we really want to think of a better future, we must support the education of women and childre, for as Maxim Gorky wrote: ‘only mothers can think to the future, because they are the ones to shape it through their children.’
Since this year, 2017, we are working in support of the women of RAWA – Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan – and, thanks to the involvement and work of some dear friends, we have been able to start up a project for the cultivation of safferon – and it is a female project! Our objectives are diverse: create greater awareness for female employment, replace the cultivation of opium, and above all else give a life and a reliable income source to women running a family. After almost a year’s research on the subject of safferon, of meetings and discussions and placing of trust in persons, we got to know Sayyd, and it will be he who shall rent us the land at Herat for 5 years and follow the project directly. We have also identified the first group of 12 women that that will undertake the first project starting in August 2017.
The land – Sayyd, who himself a great believer in womens rights, shall rent four ‘jerib’, which is approximate to a hectre of land to the women of RAWA for a five year period. At the beginning of the activity the earth has to be prepared suitably, this hard work being necessary only the once in five years. There is a very deep well on the land, which has a gasoline pump, it neeeding fuel and maintenance.
Safferon – The number of bulbs necessary for a jerib (0,2 hectre) and the cost of a kilo of bulbs, varies a lot depending on the quality and the season. Normally in Herat the workers plant 600 to 700 kg of bulbs for every single jerib. The average price for a kilo of bulbs of good quality is 5.3 euro a kilo.
Colleagues – A guard will guard the whole area 24 hours a day and receive a salary of Euro 200 per month. There will also be a trainer and a supervisor, Sayyd performing these roles, and he shall direct and coordinate the work on the land, taking a salary of Euro 200 per month. In addition an amount of Euro 100 is in budget to cover various forms of transport.
Over a period of five years we forecast a return of Euro 73,480 on the sale of safferon and of Euro 62,500 from the sale of bulbs, making a total of Euro 135,980. The annual return will vary depending on the quality of the bulbs and the weather conditions. During the first year 1 jerib could produce a maximum of 300/500 grams of safferon, a quantity which will then increase year after year, arriving at a peak in the third year and then decreasing towards the fifth, when he bulbs will be old and need replacing. The wholsale price of safferon in March 2017 was Euro 1.7 per gram and the retail price was Euro 2.4 per gram.
No profit is forecast in the first two years of activity, given the cost of upstarting the project. Notwithstanding this it is intended to provide a salary for the twelve women particpating and to arrive at a salary of Euro 870 for each woman per year, and this would represent a decent standard of living for a family composed of 5 persons. The first profits should emerge in the third year.
The amount of finance needed and calculated for the first year 2017 to start up the project is Euro 25,000.