How do you move from counting sheep to dreaming big?

How do you move from counting sheep to dreaming big?

12/12/17

Women in Afghanistan see buying sheep as a gateway to becoming leaders.  Find out how.

By Emily Janoch

Women in Afghanistan use loans from their VSLAs to buy sheep—which is a pretty profitable investment. One woman says she doubles her investment on each sheep.  But women have higher aspirations than that—they want to be involved in all community decision making. The sheep is just the beginning.

The Resilient Livelihoods Project in Afghanistan focuses on getting women access to the basics they need to improve their livelihoods, but is adding a new twist.  For year 3, they are focusing on getting women a seat at the table in community decision-making, and scaling up their models using Community Interest Groups and advocacy strategies.

What did we accomplish?

  • Increased income: By planting and growing kitchen gardens, income went up by $25 per farmer—30% the average annual income of a farmer in Afghanistan.
  • Doubled production: Farmers who planted improved seed doubled wheat yield using improved seeds and better on farm practices. 
  • More diverse diets: Using their new kitchen gardens, families are eating more diverse diets with vegetables from their gardens. They also have milk and yogurt from cows the project supplied.
  • More consistent access to food: Before, farmers had to rely on food imported from other areas—and winter cut the roads to markets for several months of the year.  Now, they can access food without waiting for external markets to open up.
  • Improved Efficiency: With their new training, farmers use 29% less seed, and are 2.5 times more efficient production (in terms of seed inputs).
  • Investing in productive assets: Women have taken a total of $15,296 in loans from VSLAs, which they are mostly investing in productive assets like livestock, businesses, and education for their children.

How did we get there?

  • Focus on the poorest people: The project worked to reach primarily landless women and other vulnerable populations such as widows and the disabled. 
  • Organize communities: The project established 37 VSLAs and 120 demonstration plots and Farmer’s Field Schools to give communities a platform to organize their activities and create solidarity for adopting new behaviors.
  • Support access to inputs: The project distributed improved seeds for growing wheat and vegetables to make sure that communities have a base to get started from.
  • Engage men: The project is working with husbands, male leaders, and community members to make sure that women are truly becoming empowered and are able to participate fully in decision-making.

What’s Next?
The project is focusing year 3 on raising advocacy messages and building Community Interest Groups to influence government decisions in order to scale the project’s approach. Women have said that their ideal situation is to be involved in all community decision making.

Learn more:
Check out the project’s mid-term evaluation.

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