BAMYAN CITY, Bamyan Province – On the floor of the living room is a small rug under a tray of a large pile of potato chips and stacks of plastic bags. Three women are packaging potato chips into the plastic bags carrying the product’s brand and sealing them with much attention and care. After sealing them, they put the bags on the other side of the room, ready to be taken to market.
Zia Gul, 25, is one of the three women in the room working for the Alghochak Potato Chips Association, an all-women’s cooperative. She has been working here for six months—doing a job that has elevated her self-confidence and economic status. She earns a daily salary of 150 Afghanis ($2.30), which is considered a reasonable income for a female worker in Bamyan Province.
“Ever since I began working for the Alghochak Potato Chips Association and earning a salary, my household economic situation has improved,” she says. “Now I help my husband by making a considerable contribution to our household expenses.” She works with nine other women in this mini-factory, located in Azhdar valley, which is part of Bamyan city’s central district.
Alghochak Potato Chips Association was founded by 10 women in Azhdar valley eight years ago. It is still the only women-operated small enterprise producing potatoes chips in Bamyan city. Mariam, 43, the association’s director says: “We began our work with primitive manual equipment eight years ago. Initially, we faced many problems and were only able to fry, package and sell 35 kg of potatoes in the market every week.”
Alghochak is one of many small enterprises in Bamyan Province receiving support from the Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Program (AREDP). Started in 2010, AREDP is a program of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), which receives funding support from the International Development Association (IDA) ), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries and Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). The program works towards strengthening market linkages and value chains for rural enterprises across the country by providing technical support to over 1,400 Enterprise Groups (63 percent female) and 500 Small Medium Enterprises (14 percent female), selected for their potential as key drivers of rural employment and income generation.
In Bamyan Province, AREDP works in Markaz, Yakawlang, Saighan, and Panjab districts. The program covers 45 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), 241 Enterprise Groups, and 1,005 saving groups, creating employment opportunities for 10,992 people