Jawzjan women grow and sell mushrooms to put food on the table

By Muhammad Qasem

A woman in Mesr Abad village near the Jawzjan provincial capital of Sheberghan carries a basketful of mushrooms she has cultivated on February 14, 2021. [Allah Nazar Turaan]

A woman in Mesr Abad village near the Jawzjan provincial capital of Sheberghan carries a basketful of mushrooms she has cultivated on February 14, 2021. [Allah Nazar Turaan]

KUNDUZ -- Women in Jawzjan province have been growing and selling mushrooms in recent years to support their families, after receiving training from partner organisations of the provincial agriculture department.

Despite the recent hardships in the country, women entrepreneurs told Salaam Times they are determined to spare no effort to improve their households’ economic well-being, and hope they can continue to work outside the home.

Nasima, 48, of the provincial capital of Sheberghan, heads a 10-member team of mushroom growers, all of whom are women.

"We have jointly been growing and selling mushrooms in Sheberghan city's Mesir Abad village for the last year," she told Salaam Times.

"Mushrooms generally yield eight times a year," she said. "I sell each kilogramme of mushrooms for 300 AFN ($3.40) in the Sheberghan market and earn an average of 10,000 AFN ($114) in a month."

This is enough to provide for her five children, Nasima said.

Guldista, 40, another farmer in Sheberghan who has completed a training course on mushroom cultivation, said two types of mushrooms are grown in Jawzjan.

One type thrives in arid areas, she said, while the other is cultivated in backyard farms.

"We first receive mushroom seeds and then grow them in specific farms," she said.

Mushrooms are a good source of protein, she said, noting that people like to use them in dishes such as bolani and curry.

"I am making between 800 and 1,000 AFN ($9 to $11) a week from selling mushrooms," Guldista said. "Most local Jawzjani women could not earn this much income in the past."

Officials at Jawzjan agriculture and livestock directorate said they have distributed improved mushroom seeds to women farmers.

"Over 380 women are currently cultivating mushrooms in 38 separate groups in Jawzjan's Sheberghan city and Aqcha district," provincial director of agriculture and livestock Ebadullah Ansar told Salaam Times.

Up to 10 women are working on each home-based mushroom growing farm across the province, he said.

"Our information indicates that these women are the breadwinners of their households. They have become self-sufficient and can make enough for the needs of their families," he said.

"We are looking around to find suitable markets where women can sell their produce at the right time, and a reasonable price," he added.

'We must struggle to expand'

The mushroom farmers are not the only women who have become the breadwinners of their families.

"I started my business two years ago and would like to continue in the future," said Alia Khairkhaw, a vegetable farmer in Sheberghan, noting that her household economy is entirely dependent on growing and selling vegetables.

"Giving up and remaining silent is not the solution," she said. "We must struggle harder to expand our businesses. Considering the efforts that I have made over the years, I do not want to give up and stay at home."

"We want to challenge the prevailing restrictions through logical and appropriate approaches," Khairkhaw said, vowing to continue her fight to maintain her business and advocate for the removal of restrictions on women.

In addition to saving their own families from poverty, women entrepreneurs have rescued the women who work for them as well, said Jawzjan women's rights activist Khair-ul-Nesa Hashimi.

"Thousands of men lost their lives during two decades of conflict in the country, leaving their families without breadwinners," she said. "Many women have started working to fill the gap and become the breadwinners of their families."

"The more employment opportunities are provided for women, the more households' livelihoods would improve, and they could become economically self-sufficient," she noted.

If women were not allowed to work outside the home, Hashimi said, the economic challenges many households are facing would be exacerbated.

'Women are the breadwinners'

Partner organisations of the Jawzjan agriculture department, which support women in various sectors, have said they will continue to employ more women who are interested in agricultural activities this year.

For several years now, the Organisation for Growth and Development in Jawzjan has been implementing projects to encourage women to work in agriculture and become self-sufficient, organisation head Abdul Qayum Sabit told Salaam Times.

"We have trained hundreds of women in various fields including livestock, poultry and beekeeping," he said. "These women have become self-sufficient and can earn a living for their families."

"We plan to cover more women under our agriculture programme this year so they can financially support their families," he added.

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We plan to cover more women under our agriculture programme this year so they can financially support their families," he added.


This is an outstanding initiative, but I don't know what the non-governmental and governmental organizations in the southern and eastern provinces are doing. They have not implemented any such project. The region has been hit hardest by the war over the past five years, but we have not yet heard of any international or national NGOs implementing such permanent programs. If it has done so, we hope that Salam Times will also make reports from these areas. Thanks


Thanks to Salam Times for publishing such promising news. Afghan women have suffered the most in nearly half a century of war and destruction, they lost their lives, and if they survived, they have been facing 100 times more problems than death. One of these problems is the losing of the breadwinner in a society like Afghanistan where women’s work is a taboo. But it makes me really happy to see that despite all these problems and even under the shadow of the Taliban regime, the brave Afghan women are working and providing a piece of halal bread to their families. Thanks again to your news agency for publishing such news that gives a positive image and gives people hope for the future of the country.


This is very good and promising news, these heroic women prove that if they would have opportunity, they can work side by side with other men and can save their families from the poverty. The previous Afghan government launched a national program for women's economic empowerment in 2016, but due to the lack of cooperation amongst the relevant organizations, the program could not achieve its goals, and unfortunately with the collapsing of the Republic, the execution of this program, like many other development programs, could not be completed. Looking at the current situation and the restrictions imposed on the women, especially on the employer women by the Taliban regime, it is responsibility of the international community to implement the unfinished goals and activities of that program. If women could work and regain economic independence, this will not only result in the significant reduction of violence against the women, but the future of the country would also be changed, since self-sufficient women would be able to provide better educational opportunities for their children in order that they can become good members of the community in the future.


It's a pleasure to provide work opportunities for the Afghan poor. WFP provided the children with bread at schools, and then the innocent children held the bread in their hands. I strongly denounce this wild work of WFP, which presented such a bad picture of Afghans to the world.


This act of WFP is immoral and hurts the psychological state and future of the children, but instead of condemning the WFP, you should condemn those who brought this situation to us. Before the Taliban, computers were distributed to students in the capitals and provinces of Afghanistan, but now with the advent of the Taliban, dry food is being distributed to them, so I think the Taliban should respond, and if condemnation takes place, the Taliban should be condemned.


I salute the courage of these women who are working hard to improve the economic well-being of their families. Women should be allowed to work and study outside their homes. Instead, internal and foreign charities make their photos and videos in exchange for a few Afghani and then publish them on the media, a disgrace to her honor and mental torture. It would be better for the families' mothers and sisters to work and fulfill their basic needs themselves rather than receive aid from foreign organizations. The World Food Program (WFP) said on Monday, 17 May, that it has started a series of bread distribution for the students at 70 schools in Nangarhar, Paktika, and Jawzjan provinces of Afghanistan. The UN agency said the bread distribution program encouraged families to send their children to school, but I say that this plan is irrational and harmful. Schools are for learning and not for eating food. These children who are given the same bread in schools are mentally dead. They are instilled in their minds that it helps them more, and then the harmful effect of this is that they will always think that other people should help them. The current Afghan authorities must block this protocol and, in return, allow women to be educated and employed. It would be better for the mother to earn halal food if her child is eating charity food.


Well done! We don’t expect aid from the crook organizations (aid groups) who are sunken in corruption; however, the Afghans should be provided with work opportunities. The international community may hear it clearly that if they are helping us, they may do this in a human way, not a mean way. The children they have given bread in their hands will be the adults of tomorrow, and this disgrace will remain in their minds as long as they are alive.