Women are a crucial but typically unrecognized and underserved force in Afghanistan’s economy. While farming is generally a male-dominated area, women are involved in virtually all farming activities through their work in households, stables and gardens. The Roots of Peace CHAMP program in Afghanistan works with female farmers to empower them with the knowledge and skills necessary to improve the quality of their orchards and crops.
One such program is that of raising drying. Traditionally in Afghansitan, grapes are dried on bare ground or sometimes on mats under the sun, turning their color brown. Shade drying, a method taught by the Roots of Peace CHAMP program, helps retain the raisins’ fresh green color, which are highly sought in the market. As raisin drying is a task often accomplished by women, ROP has made this a special priority in its women’s training courses. During September, CHAMP trained 305 female farmers and grape producers in Parwan and Kabul provinces. The training covered basic food safety and drying methods so that farmers can improve the quality of their raisin product and earn a higher price for them.
One such method uses a mixture of potassium, paraffin oil and water to reduce drying time from 4-5 weeks to 8-14 days. As raisins dry, there is a rapid rise in sugar concentration which inhibits the action of enzymes, resulting in the color darkening to brown. Grapes treated with the potassium carbonate mixture maintain a low sugar concentration throughout the drying process, helping the grapes retain their green color. As a result, farmers and their families are able to sell their raisins for a higher price in the international market and continue to improve their incomes and quality of life.