Women Innovators: Cultivating New Business in Afghanistan

Hakima had a great business idea ‘ to produce organic fertilizer on a commercial scale through vermicomposting, while promoting organic farming and training women to create their own nutrient-rich compost for kitchen gardens.

‘My husband and I had been discussing this idea for some time and were very eager to get started. Afghanistan is an agricultural economy and is heavily dependent on imported fertilizers, seeds and other agricultural inputs. I thought we could begin producing our own fertilizer and in the process be able to hire women, or train them to start their own backyard composting,’ Hakima explained. With the support of her husband, Hakima set up a company, Green Organic, in May 2013. It is the first vermicomposting business enterprise of its kind in Afghanistan.

In order to facilitate her dream, Hakima presented her business plan to the USAID-funded and IESC-implemented, Assistance in Building Afghanistan by Developing Enterprises (ABADE) Program, to help get her business off the ground. During the technical review process, ABADE’s experts quickly realized that Hakima’s idea was innovative, sustainable, had the potential to be scaled, and would provide opportunities for women. ABADE and Green Organic entered into a partnership where each party delivered one aspect of the company’s start-up: ABADE provided the material inputs and equipment and Green Organic provided the investment capital, land, manpower and project management.

In early November 2013, Green Organic received all the inputs and materials, which included 400 kg of vermicomposting worm varieties and small machinery and implements. Through a secondary USAID project, IDEA/NEW, Hakima received training in the technical aspects of vermicomposting, which helped her to construct the composting beds and care for the worms.

Hakima’s completed farm has an area of 450 sqm and the capacity to produce 100 tons of vermicompost a year. ‘We have started operations,’ enthused Hakima. ‘I hope this venture will be the start of a new industry in Afghanistan that will significantly reduce imports of chemical fertilizers while sustainably managing waste and providing women with a viable livelihood option.’ With marketable skills and the support of the ABADE Program, women like Hakima are the future of private enterprise in Afghanistan.