FEATURE STORY May 7, 2019

Kitchen Gardening Activities Empower Thousands of Unskilled Women in Eastern Afghanistan

Bibi Zahra is one of 3,600 rural Afghan women in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province who now becomes an independent person with skills to earn a living and support her family. In 2015, she received support to start a kitchen garden from the National Horticulture and Livestock Project. Watch how this support changed her life for better.

World Bank Group


Story Highlights

  • Thousands of women in Nangarhar Province have learned new horticultural skills that can help them support themselves and their families.
  • The women’s training is part of a kitchen gardening scheme supported by the National Horticulture and Livestock Project to enable poor families to earn a sustainable income.
  • The project, which aims to increase horticultural output and productivity, is implemented in 291 districts in across Afghanistan.

DARA-E-NOOR DISTRICT, Nangarhar Province – The village is wet with rain and the enchanting fragrance of orange trees fills the air. In a corner of the village, 60-year-old Bibi Zahra works carefully in her vegetable garden. The mother of six adjusts her gray scarf and selectively picks white radish.

. As an illiterate woman, she had always been a homemaker, and due to the social stigma of working outside of home among inhabitants of the village, she had never tried to start a business or work to support her family.

With no skills to earn an income, Zahra was supported by the National Horticulture and Livestock Project (NHLP) to start a kitchen garden. She was given monthly training on kitchen gardening, which has enabled her to run her small-scale garden effectively and changed her from an unskilled woman to an independent producer, earning to support her family.

In addition, she receives 15 different kinds of vegetable seeds, like spinach, radish, coriander, onion, leek, tomato, and lettuce, from NHLP. She cultivates vegetables throughout the seasons on her one jerib (0.2 hectares) of farmland. “Our household vegetable needs are met by my gardening,” Zahra says. “I sell the extra vegetables to the market and buy other family needs. In total, I earn 10,000 afghanis (about $140) to 20,000 afghanis per season from selling my vegetables to the market.”

Over a dozen other women also benefit from NHLP activities in Nangla village, in Dara-e-Noor district, where Zahra lives. These women grow vegetables on the small pieces of land around their homes, which they had never thought could yield them an income. Now these small plots of land provide nutritious food and an income.

NHLP operates under the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), supported by a $190 million grant from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). It works toward the overarching goal of increasing productivity and production of horticultural products. 

The activities have three components: horticultural production, animal production and health, and implementation management and technical assistance. 


"I have learned a lot from the project. It has empowered me and I am able to cultivate and earn more. I can pay for my family’s needs and my children’s school expenses."
Shah Bibi
Kitchen gardener, Nangla village

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The National Horticulture and Livestock Project empowers Afghan rural women with no skills to earn a living. In Nangarhar Province, the project trained Bibi Zahra and many other women on cultivating vegetables. “Our household vegetable needs are met by my gardening,” she says adding that she sells the extra vegetables to the market and buy her family needs.

Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank


Positive Impact on Poor Families

NHLP started its work in horticulture, livestock, and kitchen gardening in Nangarhar province in 2013. It is active in 12 of the province’s 22 districts.

NHLP support to establish micro-greenhouses and provide training and seeds by has positively affected the lives of hundreds of poor families. “Most of our beneficiaries are able to produce vegetables when there are not enough in the market,” says Hasamuddin, head of the NHLP horticulture component in Nangarhar province. “They can meet their own needs as well as sell to the market.” 

Shah Bibi, 40, another resident of Nangla village, is among those who received a greenhouse to grow vegetables throughout the year. Before NHLP support, Shah Bibi worked on her 2.5 jeribs (0.5 hectares) of farmland using traditional methods, which yielded poor harvests. She was not aware of modern practices of cultivating and harvesting and did not have access to improved seeds.

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Some 289 micro-greenhouses provided to rural Afghan women by the National Horticultural and Livestock project (NHLP) in Nangarhar Province have become source of living for many poor families. Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy / World Bank

Her situation has greatly improved with the benefit of the training she undertook. She is able to work the farmland more effectively and support her family equally with her husband, a vendor who does not earn very much. “I have learned a lot from the project,” the mother of nine says, “it has empowered me and I am able to cultivate and earn more. I can pay for my family’s needs and my children’s school expenses.”

Another beneficiary of the NHLP kitchen gardening support, 25-year-old Marina, says she is satisfied with the project. A resident of Bonta village in Dara-e-Noor district, she believes kitchen gardening is good employment for illiterate women in Nangarhar province, where social norms prevent them from working outside their homes. “Firstly, it is good employment for us,” she says. “Secondly, if we go somewhere like visiting our families, we can take our vegetables as a gift with us.”



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